2006-12-14 / Community

Children’s book encourages family ties

By Sophia Fischer sfischer@theacorn.com

IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers CONNECTIONS—Author  Barbara  Beitz,  author  of  a  new Hanukkah book titled “Like a Macabee,” describes how her story ties  together  a  boy’s  soccer  championship,  his  grandfather, Hanukkah and the Macabees. IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers CONNECTIONS—Author Barbara Beitz, author of a new Hanukkah book titled “Like a Macabee,” describes how her story ties together a boy’s soccer championship, his grandfather, Hanukkah and the Macabees. What do the Maccabees from the Hanukkah story have to do with soccer? Plenty, according to Barbara Bietz of Oak Park.

Bietz wrote “Like a Maccabee,” a children’s book launched on Oct. 23 that tells the story of 10yearold Ben, his upcoming soccer championship, the bully he faces, his relationship with his grandfather and the Hanukkah holiday.

“Everything in our lives is connected,” Bietz said. “What do the Maccabees have to do with soccer? They’re both life, playing by the rules, being honest and standing up for what’s right.”

The book is geared toward children 8-12 years old, but can be appropriate for younger children as a read-aloud. The story has many themes, according to Bietz—standing up for what you believe in even if you don’t have a chance; holiday celebrations; and the importance of family.

Bietz feels it’s important for children to have a strong connection to family, especially intergenerational ties.

“Kids don’t realize that fashion changes, technology advances but feelings and emotions stay the same from generation to generation,” Bietz said.

In the book, 10-year-old Ben is annoyed at first by his grandfather, with whom he has to share a room. Bietz wanted to show that being upset with your family is normal.

“It’s okay to have those feelings, but you work through them,” Bietz said.

Through the story of Hanukkah and his own childhood, Grandpa helps Ben overcome his fears.

“If the book encourages one child to have a conversation with a grandparent or encourages a grandparent to have interaction with grandchildren, then I’ve done my job,” Bietz said.

Bietz gets plenty of material from her own family, including husband, Jonathan, her children Trevor, 14, and Jillian, 17, parents Ken and Connie Foster and sister Elaine Markus-Newman, who all live in Oak Park.

Bietz said her son plays soccer and her husband is passionate about the game.

It took Bietz a long time to find the right publisher for “Like a Maccabee.” Larger companies she approached recommended religious publishers, but the book was not a religious one. She eventually chose Yaldah Publishing, based in Minneapolis.

Bietz hopes that non-Jewish children will also enjoy the book because she feels that it’s “good to learn about holidays our friends and neighbors celebrate.”

“The characters from the books I read as a kid are still with me,” Bietz said.

Born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, Bietz earned undergraduate and master’s degrees in education from the University of Arizona. She held several writing-related jobs. After taking a writing class in Thousand Oaks, Bietz realized she wanted to write children’s books.

“I love kids. They’re fun to be with and they tell you the truth. They don’t take life too seriously, but the things they are serious about are things that count like ‘are my friends nice to me and am I nice to them?’” Bietz said.

Bietz often visits schools to discuss her book, bringing along puppets that represent the characters.

Bietz is working on two new projects—a story about a girl who wants to be in the Yiddish theater in turn-of-the-century Russia, (based on her grandmother) and another story about a girl whose mother decides to go to circus college.

She also writes children’s book reviews for Jewish Book World, a catalogue of the latest books, and a monthly column for FamiliesOnlineMagazine.com.

“That you can go from having a blank page to having people, characters you care about, is incredible,” Bietz said. “You can actually create emotion by putting words together.”

“Like a Maccabee” is available in bookstores and online. For more information, visit www.barbarabietz.com

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