Local author Dori Weinstein has published the second in her YaYa and YoYo series
By ERIN ELLIOTT BRYAN / Community News Editor
When Dori Weinstein, of St. Louis Park, was searching for modern Jewish books for her own children and the students she was teaching, she found few options. So, she decided to write her own.
In 2011, Weinstein published Sliding into the New Year (Yotzeret Publishing), the first in a planned series of 12 books that follows a year in the life of twins Ellie (YaYa) and Joel (YoYo) Silver (3-18-11 AJW). YaYa and YoYo attend public school and afternoon Hebrew school, and have both Jewish and non-Jewish friends.
The book was named a 2012 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards gold medal winner in the category of Young Adult Fiction–Religion/Spirituality.
“I’m trying to reach out to kids of any faith, whether they’re Jewish or not, to teach about things they may or may not know about Judaism,” Weinstein told the AJW. “For kids who are already familiar with Jewish customs and practice, to learn a little more about it and also to see themselves in the books. There just aren’t that many books like this that take place now — [most books] talk about Judaism as something the way it was done in the old country versus how we celebrate today.”
Now Weinstein has published Shaking in the Shack, the second book in the series, under her own imprint, Five Flames Press; the cover illustration was done by Ann D. Koffsky. This book takes place during Sukkot and explores the Jewish values of shelter and caring for those in need.
“As a Jewish educator, I try to tie in [those messages] without being too teachy or preachy,” Weinstein said. “In this case, I talk about lulav and etrog, and I even work in ushpizin (Sukkot guests), so different pieces of the holiday get tied into the story.”
This story also celebrates the twins’ birthdays (which are actually on two different days, as YaYa was born a few minutes before midnight and YoYo a few minutes after) and opens on Ellie’s party with several of her friends. Shaking in the Shack is narrated by Joel (each book alternates its perspective between Ellie and Joel), who is a bit of a prankster. And Weinstein did her research to make sure Joel’s voice was authentic as a fifth-grade boy.
“I would often read parts that I’d written at dinner when we were all sitting down together,” said Weinstein, who has two sons and a daughter, as well as a husband who she said can be a bit of a prankster himself. “Everyone would give me their opinions and make sure that what I was writing was accurate in terms of what kids would say or do.”
Weinstein’s daughter designed the layout of the new cover. She also put together the Shaking in the Shack promo video, for which she wrote and performed the music; Weinstein’s younger son was involved in the video as well.
“[My kids] have been an integral part of the whole process and they love it, they think it’s kind of cool,” Weinstein said. “It’s been part of their lives for most of their childhood.”
The book was officially launched in April and Weinstein has traveled throughout the country to promote the book as part of the Jewish Book Council Network. She said the book has gotten very positive responses.
“There are so many great, great books about diverse things within Judaism for the young kids, in the picture books. But the chapter books for the older kids, there just wasn’t anything like this out there that I could find, so I saw the need and jumped in,” Weinstein said. “And I’ve had teachers and librarians at Jewish day schools and Hebrew schools who have thanked me, saying ‘This is what we needed.’ So I guess it all worked out.”
Shaking in the Shack is recommended for kids ages eight to 12. It is available locally at Elijah’s Cup and the Beth El Synagogue gift shop, as well as on Amazon.com and at Judaica shops throughout the United States. For information, visit: www.yayayoyo.com. (American Jewish World, 9.13.13)
Since 1912 the AJW has served as an important news resource for the Jewish community. The Jewish World unites the main Jewish communities in St. Paul and Minneapolis, as well as those in Duluth, Rochester and smaller cities, and bridges the divides between the various Jewish religious streams.