An Interview with Erica Perl, Picture Book Author of THE NINTH NIGHT OF HANUKKAH
Sep 17th, 2020 by Liza Wiemer

Buying Links: Bookshop|B & N IndieBound|Amazon

About The Ninth Night of Hanukkah from Goodreads:

A heartwarming picture book with a fresh twist on a Hanukkah celebration: celebrating a ninth night with new neighbors and friends!

It’s Hanukkah, and Max and Rachel are excited to light the menorah in their family’s new apartment. But, unfortunately, their Hanukkah box is missing. So now they have no menorah, candles, dreidels, or, well, anything! Luckily, their neighbors are happy to help, offering thoughtful and often humorous stand-in items each night. And then, just as Hanukkah is about to end, Max and Rachel, inspired by the shamash (“helper”) candle, have a brilliant idea: they’re going to celebrate the Ninth Night of Hanukkah as a way to say thanks to everyone who’s helped them!

This book is not only a heartwarming and fun story, it’s also an invitation to join in a beautiful new Hanukkah tradition!


The premise for The Ninth Night of Hanukkah is so clever. Share with us some book secrets, things that no one would know about this book just from picking it up and reading it. It could be an inspiration, reasons why you named your characters etc.

One Hanukkah, my daughters observed that the shamash works hard every night helping to light the other candles, but never gets a night of appreciation. The idea stuck with me. And then I thought about all the people who help others, yet so often go unappreciated (and sometimes even unnoticed). I realized how great it would be if we could honor the shamash as well as people who give of themselves and share their light with others. This led me to write The Ninth Night of Hanukkah.

What was it about the holiday of Hanukkah that made you want to create a picture book about it?

I love the feeling of togetherness that comes with Hanukkah. And I was excited to write a book that creates a new Hanukkah ritual in honor of helpers and helping. To me, although it is brand new, it is a natural outgrowth of existing Hanukkah traditions. We all help each other, and helping is more important now more than ever. Just wearing a mask is a great way that you help those around you every day! So, it makes sense to set aside a day to celebrate helpers at Hanukkah time. And the shamash is the perfect symbol because it is the hardworking yet unsung hero of Hanukkah.

I looked at Goodreads and your blog, and if I counted correctly, The Ninth Night of Hanukkah is your twenty-eighth book. Mazel tov on such an incredible accomplishment!!! What writing or publishing wisdom have you gained through your journey that you wish you would have had when you first started out that might be helpful for other writers?

Thanks! It’s actually my thirty-first published book. I have two pieces of advice. First, read constantly and critically – not just in your genre, but widely and inclusively. There’s so much we can learn from other writers, about the world as well as about the craft of writing. Second, be open to revising beyond the point when you think a piece is “done.” I often find that beneath the surface of a “finished” project is something more, which – if I’m lucky – I’ll unearth through additional revision. That was definitely true of The Ninth Night of Hanukkah, which benefitted from some wonderful editorial feedback along the way. 

Fun bonus round. Feel free to explain if you’d like.

What do you prefer?

Favorite Hannukkah treats: Chocolate gelt (coins), Potato latkes (pancakes), donuts, a different type of latke like zucchini or sweet potato? Other?

I am a bit of a chocolate gelt snob – it has to be 100% milk or dark chocolate. My favorites are made by Lake Champlain chocolatesSee’s Candies, and Trader Joe’s. I also like traditional potato latkes with sour cream, salt and pepper. My husband is the best latke-maker on the planet and I am not biased in the least.

Books to read: romance, thrillers, historical fiction, picture books, YA, MG, sci-fi, non-fiction, fantasy, horror, fiction, other?

I read a lot of picture books as well as realistic middle grade, YA, and graphic novels, though I am always excited when I read something excellent that’s outside my comfort zone (like A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers, which I read on my daughter’s recommendation – who knew I could love sci fi?).

Desert, rainforest, beach, marsh, urban park, forest, other? 

All of the above. I love the great outdoors! 

Winter, spring, summer, or fall? 

I’m a fan of summer, with a sweet spot for autumn in New England (where I grew up… I miss those early fall apples the most!).

About Erica Perl:

Erica S. Perl is the author of popular and critically acclaimed books for young readers.

Her most recent middle grade novel, ALL THREE STOOGES, won the National Jewish Book Award for Children’s Literature and the Sydney Taylor Award Silver Medal. Erica’s novels for young readers include WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU O.J. (Sydney Taylor Award Notable Book, ALA Notable Book, P.J. Our Way, multiple state book award lists), ACES WILD (NPR Best Book of the Year, P.J. Our Way), and THE CAPYBARA CONSPIRACY: A NOVEL IN THREE ACTS (innovative script format).

Erica also writes picture books – including CHICKEN BUTT!, GOATILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS and FEROCIOUS FLUFFITY – early readers, transitional chapter books, and chapter books – TRUTH OR LIE!, ARNOLD AND LOUISE, and the CRAFTILY EVER AFTER (written as “Martha Maker) series.

Erica is a crowd-pleasing presenter at schools, libraries and community events. She honed her skills working as a trial lawyer in New York City, and also worked for many years for First Book, the national non-profit organization that provides books to children in need.

She lives in Washington, D.C. with her family.

Find Erica: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

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