(Guest Post) Yona Zeldis McDonough

Title: Cats In The Doll Shop (book 2)
Author: Yona Zeldis McDonough
Publisher: Viking
Pub Date: November 2011
Pages: 144

About The Boook:
Young readers joined nine-year-old Anna as she helped turn her family’s doll repair shop into a doll-making shop. Now, Anna finds herself in an all-new adventure in The Cats in the Doll Shop. In this “quiet treasure” (Kirkus), World War I is still raging, and Anna’s cousin Tania leaves Russia to live with her family in New York City. Anna is so excited for Tania to arrive and be her new best friend. When her cousin finally moves in, Anna quickly discovers that Tania doesn’t respond to her friendly gestures and her sisters don’t seem to like her at all. Luckily, Anna finds a creative way to use her love of dolls and cats to bring everyone together. Inspired by her own experience with an injured kitten many years ago, Yona Zeldis McDonough offers a gentle story rich with history, family, and love. The Cats in the Doll Shop is a story that will be a favorite of readers for generations to come.

Today I am honored to have Yona Zeldis McDonough, the author of The Doll Shop Downstairs (book 1) and The Cats In The Doll Shop (her latest book) stop by to share with us her holiday guest post. Thanks so much Yona for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this for me and my readers. Happy Holidays.

We didn’t “do” holidays when I was a child. No Christmas (well, we were Jewish) but no Chanukah, Passover, Rosh Hashanah either. I grew up bereft in this regard, resigned to wishing for the sort of large-scale family celebrations that never, alas, were ours. As an adult, I’ve finally got the holiday thing down pat: I married a Catholic and so feel that along with his name, I’ve assumed his holidays too and I “do” Christmas in an over-the-top festive fashion worthy of anyone who’s grown up in the tradition.

But here’s a funny thing: in my writing, I am and remain stubbornly Jewish, a fact that is made particularly evident in my fiction for children, which tends to revolve around Jewish themes, characters, locales and yes, Jewish holidays.

In my most recent book, THE CATS IN THE DOLL SHOP, I have a scene in which the Breittlemanns and their friends celebrate Rosh Hashanah with a traditional meal, music and song. And here is how the family celebrates Chanukah:

We light candles in menorah at sundown, and the smell of Mama’s crispy brown latkes and cinnamon-laced applesauce is in the air. There are small gifts for us to share, too, like a bag of almonds, and orange and, best of all, pieces of chocolate Chanukah gelt, wrapped in shining gold foil.

We use the gelt as part of the game we play with the wooden dreidel that always comes out of the cupboard on holiday. It’s a game of chance that involves winning and losing the chocolate coins. First Sophie is winning, then Trudie and finally Tania. But when we are done, we divide up the gelt again, so everyone gets the same number of pieces. I eat of mine right away but decide to save the rest. I’ll be glad I have some left for tomorrow.

Later, Papa comes in to say good night. He sits down on Trudie’s bed and starts telling us the story of Chanukah…A long, long time ago, Papa begins, the holy temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and the eternal flame was in danger of going out…As Papa talks, my mind drifts. Maybe there is room for a little miracle in our lives. Maybe Plucky will come back, safe and unharmed, and Papa will let him stay. Now wouldn’t that be a miracle? I cannot help wishing.

It’s all there: the menorah, the latkes, the dreidel, the gelt, the story of the lamp that burned for eight nights even though there was only enough oil for one. I seem to gravitate back to these rituals, giving myself in fiction what I was denied in fact. I’ve read that writing is a form of redemption, and that through writing, we can restore what has been lost, or in my case, never been. And as the holidays come around again, I know that this is true. I am grateful for the chance to recreate once more the life I had longed to live.

Thanks again Yona. I loved your guest post and how even though you are doing things differently you have stuck to your roots.

Check back tomorrow for my review on The Cats in the Doll Shop.

copyright 2010, Cindy (Cindy’s Love Of Books)
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