JKH: Hi Lynn Marie! Thanks so much for inviting us to share our “story behind the story” with you. I’m Joni Klein-Higger.
BS: I’m Barbara Sharf.
JKH and BS: And we are the co-authors of Barnyard Bubbe’s Hanukkah.
JKH: The initial concept for our board book, Barnyard Bubbe’s Hanukkah, was inspired by Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Ho Ho Ho” writing challenge: Create a children’s holiday story using the basic format/concept of the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” A song! I thought it would have been a breeze for me to write since I was a songwriter with plenty of holiday songs under my belt.
Wrong. Though I had the nuts and bolts of a cute holiday story, it still needed spunk, so I called my funny (and fun!) friend, Barbara Sharf, to help bring my story to life.
BS: “You want me to help you write a book? You’re kidding, right?” Though Joni and I collaborated on musical spiels in the past, I never thought writing a book would be in my future, let alone writing a children’s picture book. But then I thought, hey, why not? Joni had the idea of a “bubbe,” (Yiddish for “grandmother,”) who makes potato latkes for Hanukkah. I love animals and thought it would be fun to have farm animals anonymously leave a present for Barnyard Bubbe each night of the holiday.
JKH: Barbara and I always worked well together, and once she got involved in writing Barnyard Bubbe’s Hanukkah with me, the creative sparks started to fly. We finished our book in no time flat. The greatest challenge was agreeing to the sounds different animals made.
BS: Baah or Maah? What sound would a dog’s paw make knocking on a door? You get the idea.
JKH: Then we tweaked, tweaked and tweaked some more until we were ready to send it to Lerner Publishing Group/Kar-Ben Publishing.
BS: Since then, Joni and I have collaborated on several other stories, and I’m proud to say I recently joined SCBWI and am writing picture books of my own.
JKH: I’ve seen her manuscripts, and must say, she’s off to an awesome start!
Barnyard Bubbe’s Hanukkah hit the shelves September 1, 2019, and Barbara and I love sharing it with children around the country.
BS: And we have such a fun musical author presentation. We sing some of Joni’s original songs.
JKH: And “you know who…” that’s right, the funny lady sitting next to me…, uses her acting and singing talents to portray Barnyard Bubbe.
BS: That’s the story behind our story. Thanks for reading, everyone.
JKH: And thank you, Lynne Marie!
Barnyard Bubbe’s Hanukkah was released by Lerner Publishing Group/Kar-Ben Publishing September 1, 2019.
You can see a book sample here:
Joni Klein-Higger is an award-winning children’s book author, songwriter and musical theater playwright. Her middle grade novel, Coby Ryan Harris is Officially Fat, won a Children’s Literary Classics Gold Award, and her picture book, Rainbow of Friendship, is the recipient of the 2015 Creative Child Magazine Book of the Year Award. Joni’s songs have been recorded by various artists, have been featured in motion pictures, and her children’s songs and musicals can be frequently heard ringing throughout the halls of preschools, elementary schools and middle schools across the country. Visit Joni at her website: www.joniworld.com
Barbara Sharf is a children’s book author and actor who loves writing fun, quirky picture books. Her love for animals frequently shines through in her work. Just ask her dog, Sophie! Originally from Philadelphia, Barbara now lives in Tampa Bay, Florida and is a member of SCBWI and WIFT. This is her debut picture book.