The Whole Megillah (TWM): Authors are thrilled when their books are accepted by The PJ Library. What is your selection process and what are the selection criteria? About how many books come to you for decisions and about what percentage do you accept?
Marcie Greenfield Simons (MGS): Book selection for The PJ Library is accomplished by a committee of experienced Jewish educators and early childhood education experts. All submissions are read and evaluated by the committee members and then discussed. Many criteria are considered when choosing a PJ selection: first and foremost, a book must be a great story, one that children and their families will want to return to time and again to read and discuss. The book must also have meaningful Jewish content and engaging illustrations. The committee receives both books and manuscripts from publishers and authors. Numbers vary, but it’s not uncommon for us to receive 8-10 submissions each week; of those, only a small percentage will be chosen as PJ Library selections.
TWM: How exactly do you distribute the books?
MGS: Families can sign up for The PJ Library program on The PJ Library website. Assuming they meet eligibility requirements set by their local community, the family will begin receiving their free annual subscription to the PJ Library, which contains 11 books and one CD each year. The PJ Library works with three mail houses across North America, which package the books by hand-stuffing each envelope and then mailing them to the homes of participating PJ Library families in more than 145 communities.
TWM: We’ve previously announced the arrangement between Marshall Cavendish/Shofar Books and The PJ Library. What is The PJ Library’s goal for this arrangement and how will you determine success?
MGS: Our goal in this collaboration is to work closely with a company that has a track record of publishing excellence and a commitment to Jewish content, knowing that this will increase the number of quality books available to our program and our subscribing families. Success comes each time we include a Shofar book in our line-up.
TWM: Would The PJ Library ever consider going beyond the six-month to eight-year-old market?
MGS: We do not envision expanding the current program beyond age 8. It is possible that in the future, there might be something developed for “graduates of the PJ Library.”
TWM: How did you personally become involved with The PJ Library?
MGS: I met Harold Grinspoon as his wife Diane Troderman because they were supporters of Sinai Academy of the Berkshires, a Jewish day school in Pittsfield, MA, which my husband and I helped to found, and where I taught for many years. In 2001, I was asked to join the board of directors of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. Serving on this board was a true privilege. In 2005 when the foundation launched The PJ Library® initiative, Harold Grinspoon was looking for a Jewish educator to join the team. As they say, the rest is history.
TWM: What would you like authors and illustrators to know about The PJ Library?
MGS: Authors and illustrators should know that The PJ Library is constantly looking for high-quality Jewish children’s books, and that we encourage them to write about subjects that will be a good fit for our program. In particular, we are in need of books for the youngest groups, ages 6 months through three years. They should also know that as a PJ selection, each book will be read and enjoyed by thousands of children and families – something that naturally holds appeal for authors.
TWM: Can authors submit to The PJ Library directly? If so, what is that process?
MGS: Authors are welcome to submit their work directly, as well as through a publisher or agent. For information about the submission process, authors should contact The PJ Library by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
TWM: And a final question, is there a way The Whole Megillah can help?
MGS: We are most grateful that you have reached out to us in this way. Continue the important work you are doing to promote the very best in Jewish children’s literature!