Michael Sherman Interview (KEOS 89.1 FM, 2003)

Tell us a little about yourself, where you're from...

Emily Sper with camera in high schoolES: Right now I live in Boston. I grew up in Croton-on-Hudson, NY, about an hour north of New York City. I've also lived in Israel, New York City, Portland, ME, and Providence, RI.

MS: How did you become interested in writing books for Jewish children?

ES: I’ve worked in the field of children’s book publishing for many years, both as a book designer and designing marketing and point-of-purchase materials. In fact my mother was an editor at Viking, so I grew up surrounded by many children’s books that are now classics.

Passover with GrandpaWhen you write books you write about what is closest to you, and the Jewish holidays are part of me. In the past I’d started books about both Hanukkah and Passover but never finished them. It was only when I really decided to dedicate time to working on self-generated books and projects that I really concentrated on the ideas floating around in my head.

Advances in technology have allowed me to print color book dummies in my studio and develop my style of illustration. Because I design my own books I am able to work on all aspects of a book at the same time and this gives me a lot of control.

Passover Seder InteriorMy books combine all of my interests — art, design, writing, Judaism, languages, culture. My education has been in all these areas — undergraduate studies in photography and design at RISD (Rhode Island School of Design); Yiddish at Brown; graduate studies at NYU in Media Ecology; and Me-ah, an intensive adult Jewish learning program.

MS: What was your goal? The books are so bright, colorful, interactive.

ES: I want to create a book that amuses me. If I have fun, kids will too. A deeper goal is to present information in a fun context. I want kids to see the holidays as fun, and to look forward to them with joy. Kids get bored at seders and adults get hungry. I hope that my books will add some meaning to both Passover and Hanukkah and arouse everyone's curiosity to learn more about Jewish history and traditions...and to count to at least ten in Hebrew!