Get to know Joel Stein, author of A Hanukkah with Mazel. Learn what inspired his sweet Hanukkah story about a stray cat and friendship.

What was your favorite book when you were a child? 

 Alice in Wonderland


What’s your favorite line from a book?                            

“I knew who I was this morning, but I've changed a few times since then.” Lewis Carroll -  Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?

Robert Cormier, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Patricia Palacco are among my favorite  authors.

Why did you want to become an author?

The works of authors and illustrators have fascinated me since I was a child. I wanted to be a part of that world.

Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators? 

Write. Write. Write. And write some more. if you believe in what you're doing, never give up your dream.

 Where did you get the inspiration for your latest or upcoming Kar-Ben book, A Hanukkah with Mazel?

Once upon a time I had aspirations of becoming an artist.  The thought came to me -- what would an artist do if he was so poor that he couldn't even afford candles to celebrate Chanukah with? And what if he lived in Grodno; the shtetl my mother grew up in?

What are you most excited about promoting in your new book?

The Chanukah story, at its core, is a story of hope and of miracles that sometimes occur unexpectedly. I'm excited to tell the story from a different perspective.

What is the most interesting thing you learned in the process of writing or illustrating your book?

Sometimes strong characters begin to have a mind of their own and can lead the story in a different direction from the one first intended.

How do you hope your book will impact the Jewish life of a child? 

I'm hoping that children can see the true meaning of Chanukah and the richness that its tradition brings. Along with that, I hope they see the kindness a poor artist shows for a small cat who wanders unexpectedly to his home one night. 

What are you working on now?

I'm currently working on Itzchak the Fiddler. It's about the extraordinary violin virtuoso, Itzchak Perlman. 

What are some fun facts about you?

At one time, I thought about becoming a veterinarian. When I'm not writing or reading, I practice Tai Chi and I also enjoy playing the viola. 

Get your copy of A Hanukkah with Mazel now.