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Interview with THE CHALLAH GIRL author, Bracha K. Sharp
March 17th, 2020 by Liza Wiemer

The Challah Girl, Published by Mosaica Press

The Challah Girl is a 2019 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards SILVER MEDALIST Award Winner, for the ” Best First Book–Picture Book” Category

Buying Guide: Feldheim | Mosaica Press |Amazon | The Jewish Museum

Author Links: Website |Goodreads

Interview:

Question: Any secrets behind writing this book or included in the novel that no one would know just by picking it up?
Answer: There are probably too many to count–but that’s often something that can make writing so much fun for an author, in the first place! For example, almost everyone who has read the book has interpreted the story, its messages, its themes, and its storyline, based on their own life experiences, understandings, and connections to Zlatah Leah’s journey. 

However, it’s usually quite surprising to me, because through the feedback that they have given me, I’ve come to see just how many layers of insights keep on being uncovered! 

I definitely have little literary or other references in the book, mainly for myself, because it is fun to look back on them and to pick up on that, numerous times, but I am always delighted when someone understands them, adds to them in new ways, to create a greater resonance of depth within the book’s storyline, or simply enjoys hearing some of my motivations for certain details, too!

All that being said, here are a few of the main details that might be interesting and that might not be picked up on, at first glance!

–Zlatah Leah’s name was inspired by many things and a few of these inspirations are: the Russian fairytale heroine, in “Vasilisa the Beautiful/Brave,” the translation of “Zlatah,”in this case, meaning “golden” as a reference to her hair color and how she stands out in her own, unique way, and her second name, Leah, which was inspired by Leah, one of our Foremothers, whose prayers were so deep and full of meaning. 

In combining these two names, I wanted her character to reflect the good qualities of both of her namesakes’ traits–but it also allowed her to have her own unique, strong, and compassionate characteristics, as well.

–I was inspired, in part, by a lesser-known variant of the “Cinderella” tale-type, called “Donkeyskin.” I took the donkey element from that story and gave Zlatah Leah an actual “animal helper” to guide her to the palace. Her tears were inspired by the Brothers Grimm “Cinderella” tale, but unlike the tears in that story or the signature ring from “Donkeyskin,” they instead became the outer manifestation of her inner prayers, which led her to help heal the prince. 

I wanted to turn that lesser-known variant of the “Cinderella” tale-type around, and so, instead of focusing on the disintegration of the family unit which the young woman in that story faces, it was important to me to give Zlatah Leah the exact opposite. 

From that strong family and community unit that she is always surrounded by, Zlatah Leah is thus able to travel through the woods and to the palace, to try to heal the prince–from the kindness of her heart and of her own volition!

–Probably one of the nicest things about this picture book’s creation is that it was inspired by one of my college English professor’s lectures and classes. During the time when the inspiration for this story came to me, I had taken a former college class not too long before, on the psychology of fairy tales and their meanings. That class was called “Literature of the Self” and until my classmates and I took it, we didn’t actually know that we would be discussing and reading fairy tales!

So, fairy tales and their meanings were writ large in my mind during that time, and afterwards, when I was working at a small Judaica shop, where one of the most popular items that we sold were challahs, my supervisor happened to come by and said, “Oh, you’re such a challah girl!” As soon as she said that, Divine Inspiration hit–and I pretty much then-and-there decided to combine both of these inspirations into the basis for my own, original Jewish fairytale!
~~~
There are always more hidden references that I am constantly remembering are in my picture book, and there are also many more personal associations that some of the people who have read the book have shared with me, but the examples given here comprise most of the core inspirations that have shaped “The Challah Girl” and its transition from written ideas to published book!

Question: Does the book have a challah recipe in it? If so, can you share it?
Answer: It certainly does! Here’s Zlatah Leah’s very own recipe. Enjoy!

Bonus Round: What do you prefer?

1. winter, summer, spring or fall? Spring, most of the time, for sure!
2. kreplach or matzah balls? Matzah balls
3. spinach, peas, or corn? Spinach, with peas as a close second
4. Reading a book or going for a walk? Both–because I often get my inspiration for new stories, poems, and so on, from both activities, and both of them are also quite nice to do, too! (However, I have been advised against reading whilst walking, although both are good to do–but probably at different times! 😉 )


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