Meet the Imprints: Kar-Ben Publishing

We continue our stroll through Lerner Publishing Group’s many imprints with a look at Kar-Ben Publishing, the largest publisher of Jewish children’s books in the world. Read on to learn more about the broad publishing program Kar-Ben enjoys and some of our most familiar and popular books in the imprint.

What is your editorial vision for your imprint?

With almost 500 titles in print, Kar-Ben is the largest publisher of exclusively Jewish-themed children’s books in the world, publishing 20-25 new, high quality children’s titles each year. Subjects include fiction and nonfiction for preschool through middle school, including Jewish holiday books, life-cycle stories, Bible tales, folktales, stories about Israel, and Jewish history, reflecting the rich cultural diversity of today’s Jewish family.

What makes your imprint different from others in publishing?

Kar-Ben is a niche market children’s publisher to the Jewish community, meeting the needs of Jewish families, providing Jewish kids with both mirrors in which to see themselves as well as windows through which to learn about and appreciate Jewish cultural diversity. We also provide windows for the non-Jewish community to learn about Jewish culture in this diverse world.

How do you decide what to acquire?

We look for stories with Jewish settings and characters and engaging storylines. Our books are not how-to books about Jewish holidays and culture, but rather stories that include this information without being didactic. We seek well-written stories with elements of humor and excitement, in addition to their having Jewish content.

Your degree/background is in journalism. How did you wind up in your current role?

I’ve been the publisher at Kar-Ben for almost 20 years. I’ve worked in publishing all my life, including as publisher of Minnesota Parent magazine, and marketing director at Meadowbrook Press. I owned my own printing company for over ten years, giving me a production background as well. I’m a past-president of Books for Africa. Kidlit is my jam.

What is the state of publishing in your genre right now?

Jewish children’s book publishing is robust at this time, and becoming even more so due to the growing interest in books about diversity, as well as the entry of the PJ Library into the Jewish children’s publishing world. A philanthropic organization providing free Jewish books to families, they purchase many of our books to distribute in their program.

What are you reading right now, for work or for pleasure?

I’ve just finished “Loving Frank,” by Nancy Horan, having recently visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin studio in Spring Green, Wisconsin, and am currently reading “Forest Dark” by Nicole Krauss.

Get to know some of Kar-Ben’s bestselling and most popular titles!

The Whispering Town

  • Interest Level: Grade 2 – Grade 5
  • Reading Level: Grade 3

The dramatic story of neighbors in a small Danish fishing village who, during the Holocaust, shelter a Jewish family waiting to be ferried to safety in Sweden – based on a true story.

It is 1943 in Nazi-occupied Denmark. Anett and her parents are hiding a Jewish woman and her son, Carl, in their cellar until a fishing boat can take them across the sound to neutral Sweden. The soldiers patrolling their street are growing suspicious, so Carl and his mama must make their way to the harbor despite a cloudy sky with no moon to guide them. Worried about their safety, Anett devises a clever and unusual plan for their safe passage to the harbor.

Sammy Spider’s First Hanukkah

  • Interest Level: Preschool – Grade 3
  • Reading Level: Grade 2

Sammy Spider watches longingly as Josh Shapiro lights another candle and receives another brightly-colored dreidel each night of Hanukkah.

Additional Sammy Spider books are available to cover all Jewish holidays, lifecycle events, and more!

Latke, the Lucky Dog

  • Interest Level: Preschool – Grade 2
  • Reading Level: Grade 1

Rescued from an animal shelter on the first night of Hanukkah, Latke has trouble learning the house rules. Despite a series of mishaps, he is one Lucky Dog!

The Patchwork Torah

  • Interest Level: Preschool – Grade 5
  • Reading Level: Grade 3

As a child, David watches his grandfather, a Torah scribe or sofer, finish a Torah scroll for the synagogue. “A Torah is not something to be thrown away,” his Grandfather explains. David’s grandfather carefully stores the old Torah his new one has replaced in his cabinet, hoping to one day repair the letters so the Torah can be used again.

David grows up and becomes a sofer just like his grandfather. Through the years, people bring him damaged Torahs they have saved from danger and disaster – one damaged by Nazi soldiers during World War II, one damaged in a fire in a synagogue, and one in flooding during Hurricane Katrina. David stores each of these precious Torahs in his cabinet, until his granddaughter Leah gives him the idea to make a recycled Torah from the salvaged Torah scrolls.

Miriam at the River

  • Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3
  • Reading Level: Grade 2

The biblical story of baby Moses as told by his big sister.

Giving her baby brother a kiss, brave little Miriam places Moses’s basket into the river. With one quick push, she sends him into the water, hoping her wish will come true and her brother will be saved from Pharaoh’s orders. But will Pharaoh’s daughter arrive in time to rescue him?

Mrs. Noah’s Doves

  • Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3
  • Reading Level: Grade 2

Mrs. Noah kept birds. She kept many a variety of birds, ravens and robins, eagles and eiders, cockatoos and crows. But out of all the birds she kept, her favorite were her doves. When the flood comes, Mrs. Noah brings them onto the ark. But there is a special mission for the doves.

Deborah’s Tree

  • Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3
  • Reading Level: Grade 3

Deborah has a gift; she can see the future

As Deborah grows up, so do the date palms that surround her home. Under these trees, people come from far and wide to seek guidance from the great prophetess and judge. In her dreams, Deborah foresees danger to the people of Israel. She summons a general to speak with her beneath the date palms. “War is coming and you must prepare,” she tells him. For the girl that grew up under the date palms, her moment of destiny has arrived. Based on the story of the biblical heroine Deborah.

José and the Pirate Captain Toledano

  • Interest Level: Grade 3 – Grade 6
  • Reading Level: Grade 3

Set in the shadows of the Spanish Inquisition, this is the coming-of-age story of José Alfaro, a young refugee who forms a powerful bond with the mysterious Pirate Captain Toledano. It’s also a dynamic pirate adventure on the high seas, with hand-to-hand combat and ship-to-ship action, and the powerful story of a dark time in history when people took different paths to survive.

Rena Glickman, Queen of Judo

  • Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3
  • Reading Level: Grade 2

Rena Glickman, known professionally as Rusty Kanokogi, was a Jewish girl who grew up to become the preeminent female judo master of her time, overcoming many odds. At a time when judo was a sport strictly for boys and men, Rusty was determined to practice the sport she loved.

Shoham’s Bangle

  • Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3
  • Reading Level: Grade 2

Shoham’s bangle jingles and jangles, clinks and clacks

Shoham wears a golden bangle on her wrist, just like her Nana Aziza. Their bangles jingle when they cook, and glitter in the sun. When Shoham and her family must leave Iraq, they are allowed to take only one suitcase each. They may take no jewelry. Shoham has the important job of carrying Nana’s homemade pita bread, which Nana says they will eat when they get to Israel. But when they finally arrive and it is time to eat, Shoham bites into something hard inside the pita bread.

Hanukkah in Little Havana

  • Interest Level: Preschool – Grade 3
  • Reading Level: Kindergarten

Celebrate Hanukkah with Family!

Every December, a little girl in Virginia looks forward to receiving a crate of oranges from her grandparents in Miami, but this year is even better. The family is taking a driving trip to visit Nonna and Nonno in Florida! At Nonna and Nonno’s house, they pick grapefruit and oranges under the sun. They dance the salsa and play in the waves at the beach. Best of all, they celebrate Hanukkah together. The girls help Nonna make latkes, and buñuelos stuffed with almonds and guava jelly. It’s eight days of light and love.

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