In Not This Turkey! a family of recent Jewish immigrants to New York City get a taste of the American holiday, Thanksgiving—but when Papa is given a live turkey at work and Mel can’t bear the idea of eating the bird, holiday chaos ensues.
We were lucky enough to sit down with author Jessica Steinberg to chat about Not This Turkey!, finding inspiration, and holiday traditions.
Q: What was your inspiration for your title?
A: Turkeys are such a central part of Thanksgiving, but in these times, not everyone actually eats them. So I wanted potential readers – that is, parents – to know that while this is a Thanksgiving tale, the turkey is saved in the end.
Q: What was the process of working with your editor like?
A: She was wonderful, knowing intuitively where and how to tighten the prose. When you only have about 500 to 600 words in a kid’s book, every word counts, and [Editorial Manager] Wendy [McClure] spent plenty of time cutting and honing Not This Turkey! with me.
Q: What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book?
A: The easiest part is editing; the hardest part is coming up with the right twists and turns that make the story work.
Q: Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?
A: I’m a journalist in real life and this is my first children’s book, which was about a decade in gestation. When I am actually writing, I spend a lot of time staring into space, or out the window, and then writing furiously during those wonderful spurts of energy.
Q: Why write children’s books?
A: This particular story presented itself to me, as it’s based on an incident that took place in my friend’s family. When I first heard it, I could just see it as a picture book, even though my own children weren’t born yet and I hadn’t spent so much time reading children’s books. Now that I have my own kids and have spent hundreds of hours reading out loud, I know what I like in children’s books and want to keep on writing them.
Q: Are you working on any other projects?
A: I’m working on two other children’s books at the moment, loosely based on my own twin sons’ experiences.
Q: What books did you like to read as a kid? What type of books do you like to read now?
A: As a young kid, I loved Blueberries for Sal, Corduroy, and Harold and the Purple Crayon, and I moved on to series such as All of a Kind Family and Little House on the Prairie when I was a little older. Now I’m a big fan of memoir, contemporary and historical fiction, and the occasional biography.
Q: How do you celebrate Thanksgiving?
A: With my friends and family, and my family usually hosts. I live outside the US, so Thanksgiving is a bit more of a challenge in terms of sourcing cranberries and a turkey, but we make sure to celebrate it each year.
Q: What is your favorite Thanksgiving tradition?
A: I love the process of preparing the turkey, which becomes something of an all-day affair with my particular recipe. But I take my time, and try not to rush, and there’s no better feeling than sitting down with everyone to those traditional Thanksgiving dishes, each one prepared with love and care.
Thanks, Jessica! Find out more about life in New York, celebrating holidays in a new place, and that wild turkey on our website.