THE BOOK OF LIFE - Hanukkah with Noshy Boy & Friends
2:18AM Dec 13, 2019
COLD OPEN: Zayde read, "In Jerusalem over 2000 years ago, the Greek King Antiochus and his troops took over the temple and wouldn't let Jews pray." Kvetchy Boy kvetched, "I don't like King Antiochus. He sounds like a big bully." "That's what the Maccabees thought too," said Zayde. "Judah Macabee led a small group of Jews to take the temple back," continued Zayde, turning the page.
MUSIC, INTRO: This is the Book of Life. I'm Heidi Rabinowitz. I am very pleased to announce that today's episode is the world premiere of the audiobook Hanukkah with Noshy Boy and Friends by Anne-Marie Asner. First we'll hear from Anne-Marie and then we will listen to the full audio book which is about five minutes long. Be sure to keep listening after the story to hear Anne-Marie's tikkun olam suggestion, and to learn how you can join the #Readukkah Jewish Reading Challenge. And if you like the Yiddishkeit theme of this episode, be sure to join us next time when I'll be interviewing three more authors of Yiddish related children's books. Now, here's Anne-Marie.
Anne-Marie Asner is here to introduce the world premiere on the Book of Life of her audio book Hanukkah with Noshy Boy and Friends, which we are going to hear in a few moments. So welcome, Anne-Marie.
Thank you, Heidi.
Tell us about your Yiddish book series.
Well, my book series is called Matzah Ball Books. And the first book came out 15 years ago, it was Schmutzy Girl. It was a labor of love. I wasn't sure how it was going to land. So we started with one title, within six months we sold out so Along Came Noshy Boy. It grew from there. At this point, we have six titles out and another three press ready waiting to hit the shelves. Kibitzy Girl is written and ready to go to press and she's always joking around. Schleppy Boy is a new boy book. He's always kind of dragging his whole life with him. And I have a book, it stars there Bubbe and Zayde and all the kids go to their house for like a playdate with Bubbe and Zayde and it's about them, all true to form, you know, Klutzy is breaking stuff and how their Bubbe and Zayde can't see their flaws. They only see the good in them because that's the way it is when you love someone.
Thank you. I've had some bandwidth to really get back into expanding my brand and that was one of the things that just felt like it was a natural expansion.
Why do you want to share Yiddish with kids?
Because I'm meshuggeneh. [laughing] Basically the short version is that my bubbe spoke fluent Yiddish, my mom understands Yiddish, and I know 50 words. So with that kind of level and pace of dilution, what's the next generation going to have? So Yiddish to me is the language or a language of our people. It is something that was close to wiped out by the Holocaust and it is a major transmitter of culture, of passion, of warmth, of funny, and it would be a shame to lose what little bit we have left and Seinfeld did a great job for the for the older set. I feel like my role is bringing it in even younger and having my books like Schmutzy Girl and Noshy Boy and Schluffy Girl they each live up to their namesake, you kn ow Schmutzy's dirty, Noshy's eating, Klutzy is clumsy, and it's really meant to be a Yiddish primer for the youngest of kids. This is a mission driven company to keep Yiddish alive, the joy of it, the funny of it, to make sure it gets into the hands of the next generation and the generation after. Honestly, the books have been out for 15 years, I have 20 year olds now coming to me and saying, Oh my gosh, I had Noshy Boy when I was a kid! It's now two generations, not one generation. So let's keep it going.
Yeah. Cool. That's great. Do you have a favorite Yiddish word?
Favorite. That's... I'll tell you a little story. I guess, because I'm a writer, so inherently a storyteller. I was on my way to get married to my husband in Israel. It was a few days before heading out. And my bubbe was in the hospital and that point, she was deep into her 80s and she wasn't going to be traveling to Israel for the wedding. But I brought her my wedding dress to show her so that she could kind of be part of it and, and she was also the first one my husband told that we are getting married, like she's been a very big and influential part of all of our lives. Anyway, she looks at the dress and she said it's not too ungepatchke. I never heard that word before. And I'm assuming she didn't just make it up, that that was Yiddish and true to form like Yiddish is a language of Onomatopoeia like things are what they sound and it just meant that it wasn't overdone. It was a nice, properly decorated but not over the top dress. So I guess that would have to be my favorite word. It's not one that I get to use very often like, ferdrayt, okay, I'm lost or farshtunken, I'm stinky. These are ones that k ind of come up more. Ungepatchke is a trickier one. But since it was straight from my bubbe, and it was one of a later one to my life. I guess that would have to be my favorite.
That's a great story.
Another one that I love, kind of the other end of the lifespan, is that my kids for some reason really like rice. And one of one of them's already like on portion number 10 and says "mommy, can I have some more rice?" I'm like "no, enough rice" and she's like, "it'll just be a bisl, just a bisl of rice." Like so my kids now know like if they want something from mom like an easy way to finagle their way in is by using a bisl of Yiddish.
Hey, is finagle a Yiddish word? it sounds like it.
It is, there's even a bagel place called Finagle the Bagel.
Yes. And that, and that's also part of the motivation for these books is that so much of Yiddish, in fact, all of the Yiddish words in my books are part of, except for bubbe and zayde, are part of English. If you go and look them up in Merriam Webster dictionary, they're actually there. And they'll say "Nosh. It means to snack or eat. Origin: Yiddish," these words are already in English, but the fact that they come from Yiddish, their origin story is largely missing. So hey, we can have some pride in the humor of what we've brought to the English language. I didn't know this until recently, English is actually a language with more words in it than almost any other language on the planet, I think if I remember correctly has two or three times the number of words that Hebrew does. Like Hebrew is very much a language of context. And English is a language of melting. So there are so many words from so many different languages, whether through conquest or through immigration that have been combined into the English language, that to have a new word added to the English language is actually a really big deal. And we have a whole bunch of them there. So yay for Yiddish!
Well, that's really interesting. I didn't know that. When did you originally release the print version of Hanukkah with Noshy Boy and Friends and what led you to create an audio version now?
So Hanukkah with Noshy Boy and Friends first came out early 2013, maybe late 2012. I put it out for Hanukkah 2012. And why the audio now? I mean, a few reasons. One is I've gotten much more into the kid TV and screen space. I know a lot more people in the sound world and one of them was kind enough to offer me his studio. Another reason is that my kids are now growing up enough where I have a bit more bandwidth to expand my brand. So Schmutzy Girl came out in 2004 pre marriage, pre kids, really very early in my greater career, and then very quick on its heels was Noshy Boy and then Schluffy Girl and then Kvetchy Boy and then Klutzy Boy... I sound like like a Jewish seven dwarves, right? [laughing] And then I had three kids in three years and kind of got a little bit underwater, just helping to raise my next generation of kinders, right? Then once I had some time to breathe, I was being distributed then by Alef Judaica, which at the time, was one of the largest Judaica distributors in North America. And they told me Hanukkah sells more than every other Jewish holiday combined. Why don't you do a Hanukkah book? I'm like, Okay, I'll do Hanukkah book.
Okay. Now, the famous actor Ed Asner voices the grandpa in the story that we're about to hear. So Asner is your last name too; are you any relation?
Not that I know of. So what happened was we have the same last name so his sisters would call me: Hi, are we related? I don't know. Okay, but I write books so I'd send them to him for his grandkids and then what happened was I had finished writing my first sitcom, which didn't air but it was a logical kind of spot in my creative journey to reach out to Ed and I just said, Hey, I don't know if we're related or not, but I thought you may be interested to what another Asner is up to in this town, because we both live in Los Angeles. He called me back that same day, and in true Ed form, started yelling at me like, I can't have dinner tonight. Tomorrow night works for me. I'm like, Okay, great. Where do you live? I'm like, Santa Monica. No, you're geographically undesirable. You'll have to come to me. You know, as if I wouldn't come to Ed anyway. He, at the time, was in his early 80s. And he just, thank god, celebrated his 90th birthday. So we met from our shared last name, and we've been friends ever since.
Yeah, so he was just kind enough to come into the studio, take a break from his own busy schedule and record the zayde voice in the Hanukkah with Noshy Boy and Friends book, as well as in the bubbe and zayde book that hasn't yet been even sent to press. Despite him being gruff on the outside, he is honestly the kindest, most generous man in terms of his time, in terms of his heart, in terms of the fact that he's willing to come to the studio with my nine year old and me record a zayde voice. He is the most awarded male actor in the history of awards. And he still makes that kind of time for me and for our friendship. That's, that's who he is in the world.
Yeah, that's beautiful. I looked on IMDB and he had like over 300 credits of different things he's done. That's amazing, but I always think of him as Lou Grant.
Yeah, exactly. And then, and then the generation after thinks of him as the old man from Up, or he's Santa Claus from 10 different movies, you know, right. He didn't need to do that. Like I said, he turned 90. And he made time for me. And it was really a gift for all of us. Right?
Right. Wonderful. All right, well, now I'm two degrees of separation from him. So I'm excited about that!
Well, come to LA and you can come to have lunch with him at his house with me.
That would be awesome. Where can listeners get their hands on your Yiddish books or on your new audio books?
So right now, audio books are only available through you. They will soon be at MatzahBallBooks.com. The books are already there. And we also have some merchandise kids' plate sets, onesies, it's really an expanding line of Yiddishkeit paraphernalia.
Thank you Anne-Marie, and Happy Hanukkah.
Thank you, Heidi. It's been a real treat. You contribute so much to the literary community, particularly for Jewish kids and it's really an honor to have your podcast be the world premiere of our audio book series.
Oh, thank you.
Pleasure's all mine.
MUSIC, PROMO: The Association of Jewish Libraries, and The Book of Life's Jewish Kidlit Mavens Facebook group, and the Jewish Book Council, present #Readukkah, a Jewish reading challenge for all ages. #Readukkah takes place during the eight days leading up to Hanukkah, December 15 to December 22, 2019. To participate, just post about any Jewish book online. Where online, you ask? We've provided a Facebook event where you can post about your books, but you can also post on any form of social media. Just be sure to use the hashtag #Readukkah so we can find your post. Of course people spell Hanukkah in lots of ways. So let me point out that that's READUKKAH with two K's. By sharing your hashtag #Readukkah posts, you help to spread the word about great Jewish books. This creates demand which, God willing, supports the publication of more Jewish books. Do an easy and fun mitzvah by helping to expand the universe of Jewish literature by participating in #Readukkah. Visit BookofLifepodcast.com for details.
Hanukkah with Noshy Boyand Friends by Anne Marie Asner.
Each year at Hanukkah time, Noshy Boy hosts a party with his grandparents bubbe and zayde. His family and friends get together to celebrate, listen to the story of Hanukkah, and eat special Hanukkah treats.
At this year's party Noshy Boy greeted his guests at the door. "Hanukkah is the tastiest holiday of the year. Latkes, donuts, chocolate gelt! Come in." Schluffy Girl yawned, "Happy Hanukkah, Noshy Boy." Then she headed straight to the couch for a rest. Kvetchy Boy sniffed and complained. "Yuck, I don't like Hanukkah. It always smells like oil." "It's a good thing, too," said Schleppy Boy. "I schlepped this 10 pound bag of potatoes in case we run out." You can never have too many latkes," said Noshy Boy.
Schmutzy Girl walked out of the kitchen, her dress covered with doughnut jelly. "Oh no, the party just started and I'm already schmutzy." "Don't worry. A little schmutz never hurt anyone," comforted bubbe, coming to the rescue with a sponge.
Hanukkah book in hand, zayde took a seat in his arm chair. The kids rushed the living room to hear the story. On his way Klutzy Boy tripped over a dreidel and stumbled into place.
Zayde read "In Jerusalem over 2000 years ago, the Greek King Antiochus and his troops took over the temple and wouldn't let us pray." Kvetchy Boy kvetched "I don't like King Antiochus. He sounds like a big bully." "That's what the Maccabees thought too," said zayde. "Judah Maccabee led a small group of Jews to take the temple back," continued zayde, turning the page. "After years of struggle the Jews finally won," said zayde. "I'm exhausted just hearing about it," said Schluffy Girl, yawning. "Although they got the temple back, it was a mess," zayde continued. "Sounds like my room sometimes," said Schmutzy Girl. "Maybe they needed to clean it up." "That's exactly what they did," said zayde. "But the Maccabees noticed something was missing," continued zayde. "I know," exclaimed Keppie Girl," there was barely enough oil to light the menorah for one night." "Haha. Hanukkah would be a pretty silly Festival of Lights without light!" joked Kibitzy Girl.
Zayde read on, "then a miracle happened. The oil lasted for eight days and nights until new oil could be made. And that's why we light candles for the eight nights of Hanukkah," concluded zayde, closing the book. Joining them, bubbe added "and that's why we eat oily food. Come, my brilliant little Maccabees, the latkes are ready."
The children thanked zayde for reading the story and went to the festive table to eat. Schleppy Boy struggled under the weight of an overflowing platter of latkes. "Please help yourself to jelly doughnuts and latkes with applesauce and sour cream, yum," announced Noshy Boy. Schmutzy Girl said, "I'm going to steer clear the jelly; one squirt is enough for today." Klutzy boy accidentally put his elbow in the applesauce. "Oops. Maybe I should have my latkes plain, still tasty and less to knock over."
After they all ate enough to fill their bellies, they gathered around to light the menorah and sing Hanukkah songs. Even Schluffy Girl woke up for the festivities.
The party neared its end, but not before the kids played dreidel games with chocolate gelt coins as prizes. When it was Kvetchy Boy's turn the dreidel landed on gimel and he won all the gelt. Happy to have won, Kvetchy Boy, shared the chocolate with his friends and admitted, "I guess Hanukkah isn't so bad after all." "Not bad!? Hanukkah is miraculous!" said Keppie Girl. "It's a miracle that jelly schmutz didn't stain my dress," Schmutzy Girl said. "Mmm. And it's nothing short of delicious," said Noshy Boy, licking the chocolate from his lips. Tired and full, the kids left, happy that there are more nights of Hanukkah ahead.
For more about this book and others, please visit MatzahBallBooks.com.
It's Tikkun Olam Time, and this is your opportunity to invite listeners to some kind of action that will help heal the world. So what would you like to invite people to do?
This is a great question Heidi, and honestly it's always Tikkun Olam Time, right?
Yeah, that's true.
Or it should be. So I've been thinking about this a lot lately, particularly since a friend of my daughter's just had her bat mitzvah and said, Hey, for my bat mitzvah project, I'm asking everybody to pick up trash they see, random trash on the ground, that would help me with my bat mitzvah, knowing that I have inspired that. So I thank you for giving me a platform to inspire something. And I noticed the time of year particularly, you know, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, where there's lots of fill the food pantries and volunteer at soup kitchens. And these are amazing, amazing things to do, particularly in Los Angeles where we have the largest homeless population in the whole country. That being said, the thing that is most kind of prevalent in my world on a daily basis is what comes out of people's mouths, particularly raising young kids. They're very quick and very snappy and very witty and can always have a quick retort. But the kindness factor, the adage of if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all, is really, really ringing true in my world right now. If you can't build someone or create joy or create happiness, or at least not injure through what comes out of your mouth, if you can just keep it between your ears. That is a major mitzvah. So for me, that's my Tikkun Olam ask ,is if we can all collectively, myself included, watch what we say.
All right, good advice.
MUSIC, DEDICATION: Hi, I'm Debbie Levy, author of Yiddish Saves the Day. Hi, I'm Sue Macy, author of The Book Rescuer. Hi, this is Valerie Estelle Frankel and I'm the author of Chelm for the Holidays. We'll be joining you soon on The Book of Life podcast. We'd like to dedicate this episode to our Yiddish speaking forebears.
MUSIC, OUTRO: Don't be a stranger. Say hi to Heidi at 561-206-2473 or BookofLifepodcast@gmail.com. Check out our Facebook page or our Facebook discussion group Jewish Kidlit Mavens. We are occasionally on Twitter too. There are lots of ways to support the show through Patreon and through donations to our home library, the Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel of Boca Raton, Florida. You can find links for all of that and more at BookofLifepodcast.com. Our background music is provided by The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band. Thanks for listening and happy reading.