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The Passover Mouse by Joy Nelkin Wieder

Teachers, Joy would love to share her book with your students. Please email her at jnwiederATgmailDOTcom to get the Flipgrid link to share with your students. Your students can hear Joy read her amazing book and ask her questions as well. Joy will respond to students questions on Flipgrid until April fifth.

I will be sharing this link with my students and asking them to rewrite the story from the mouse’s perspective. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!

In the meantime, listen to the interview below to find out how Joy received the story seed for The Passover Mouse and for writing tips. The transcript is below.

Interview Transcript

Kate: We are so lucky to have Joy Nelkin Wieder here with us today. Hi Joy!

Joy: Hi!

Kate: I was hoping you could tell us about the story seed for The Passover Mouse.

Joy: Okay, so the story seed comes from the Talmud, and the Talmud is a book of Jewish laws. And, then the rabbis have commentaries on the laws. It was written a long time ago, and there’s many volumes of the Talmud. And there’s one volume that talks about all the laws about Passover. I was reading through that book, researching a different book, when I read a passage about the rabbis discussing homes having chometz, which is leavened bread in them. Maybe a mouse would come into the house with a piece of bread after someone has cleared their house of all their chometz. What are you going to do? What if a mouse comes in and a different mouse comes out? What are you going to do then? They went around and around in this long discussion, and the idea for the story just popped into my head

Kate: Wow! That’s fantastic. So, it just goes to show that you should always be open to stories coming to you at any time.

Joy: True, you never know where a story is going to come from.

Kate: Thank you so much for talking to us about your story seed.

Joy: Sure!

Kate: I think it’s so neat that the villagers all help Rivka prepare for Passover, and I was wondering if you had any help preparing The Passover Mouse for publication?

Joy: Oh, good question. Yes, I had a lot of help getting The Passover Mouse ready for publication. I’d say the most critical help I had was from my critique group. A critique group is a group of writers who read each other’s stories and give feedback. And, one of those critique members is interviewing me right here today.

Kate: Well, that’s true, but we have a lot of people in our group. Could you maybe tell our young writers what kind of feedback people in the group gave you that helped make your writing stronger?

Joy: Sure. Some of the feedback that I got was about the conflict. What was going to happen to these people, the houses that have the mice running through them? And, how was this conflict going to get resolved? And, whether the subject was too Jewish in its outlook? How to maybe make it more accessible for people who might not know what all the laws of Passover are about? So, that’s something I had to think about, too.

Kate: Wow! That’s great. That’s true. In order for a story to be interesting, it usually does have some sort of conflict in it.

Joy: That’s right. Conflict is key to keep the readers turning those pages. That’s what you want.

Kate: That’s totally true, and I was thinking you know we see the story from Rivka’s perspective. But, I was wondering how it might change if we were told the story from the mouse’s perspective? Could you elaborate on that a little bit?

Joy: Wow! That would be very interesting. Many times I actually teach creative writing to students in fourth to sixth grade, and I ask them to look at different points of view and how a story might change. Let’s write a story from the mouse’s point of view and see what happens. Sometimes that comes up in our critique group, and I might try it that way and see if I like it as an experiment and see what happens.

Kate: Wow! That’s a neat idea. So, that’s a great tip you just gave our young writers. When we’re trying writing stories, we shouldn’t just try it from one perspective. We should try it from a few different perspectives to see which one feels the strongest.

Joy: Right, and sometimes it can be a point of view: first person versus third person. You can try it both ways and see what happens.

Kate: That’s true. I’m curious, was The Passover Mouse always from Rivka’s perspective or did you try having it from other people’s perspectives?

Joy: I think it’s always been from Rivka’s perspective. I made her the central character because I wanted her to be the person that needs the help. So, the mouse is the vehicle that brings the village together to give her the help. That’s why Rivka is the central character.

Kate: It’s such a sweet story. I love a happy-ending. I want happy-endings. What can I say? Speaking of happy occasions, I was hoping you might share with our readers some of your family’s Passover traditions that you have.

Joy: Sure! We love hosting Passover Seders. It’s a time when the whole family gets together. It’s a ceremonial meal, and there’s different components to the meal. But, we like to keep the kids interested. So, there’s a lot of different parts of the Passover Seder that are oriented toward children. So, there’s the four questions where the children get to ask questions. Then, in the answering of those questions we help them learn about the Passover Seder and the Passover story. We take a piece of the matzoh, and we hide. It’s the afikoman, and the kids have to find the piece. When they find it, they get a reward. That’s always fun. So, we have a lot of different traditions, especially around the kids, and I love having kids at my Seder.

Kate: Wow! That sounds like a really fun time.

Joy: It is. It’s great.

Kate: I bet your guests are so grateful that you welcome them into your home.

Joy: The more, the merrier when it comes to Passover Seder I always say.

Kate: That’s great. I just have one last question.

Joy: Sure.

Kate: You mentioned that you teach writing to fourth through sixth graders.

Joy: Yes

Kate: I was wondering if you’d like to leave us with any tips for our young writers who may be listening to this video.

Joy: Okay, well looking at it from a different perspective was one tip. Conflict, make sure your story has a beginning, middle, climax and end. And then you have to figure out what does your character want, and what keeps your character from getting what they want. That’s where you build in the conflict that keeps the readers turning the pages of your story.

Kate: Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Joy. This has been a true pleasure.

Joy: Sure. My pleasure.

Kate: Well, we are so glad that you came, and thank you once again for writing the Passover Mouse. It’s so great to have another wonderful book in the library.

Joy: I’m happy that you enjoyed it.

Kate: Alright, take care Joy.

Joy: Bye.

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