Lindauer, Bonnie. Hannah G. Solomon Dared to Make a Difference. Illustrated by Sofia Moore. Minneapolis: Kar-Ben, 2021.
The Whole Megillah (TWM): Welcome, Bonnie Lindauer and Sofia Moore! Bonnie, let’s start with you. What inspired you to write about Hannah G. Solomon?
Bonnie Lindauer (BL): As a member of the San Francisco section of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), I’ve attended over several years the awards luncheon and listened to the accomplishments recited for each year’s winner of the Hannah G. Solomon award. The service to their communities that these women provide is truly amazing. I am so impressed by how the NCJW promotes and supports the social justice work that it does. Also, after I read a history of our SF section, I became more and more interested in the life of our founder, Hannah G. Solomon.
TWM: What were your greatest challenges in writing this book?
BL: The greatest challenge for me was having too much information about Hannah’s life and having to find ways to present only the most salient parts for children. I revised the manuscript at least seven times, each time cutting out sections and reorganizing it.
TWM: What were your greatest satisfactions?
BL: I suppose the greatest of all was having the manuscript accepted by Joni Sussman of Kar-Ben Publishing. But my elation about having it accepted soon faced the reality of still needing to do a bit more revising. Tied for the greatest satisfaction was seeing how the manuscript came to life with the sketches, and later, stunning illustrations by Sofia Moore. Finally, I continue to get satisfaction from readers who tell me they so enjoy the book, especially my NCJW colleagues who are so happy to finally have a book published about their founder. Now, the way is paved for someone to write an adult biography of Hannah G. Solomon.
TWM: Please describe your research process.
BL: As a retired academic research librarian, I’m sometimes disadvantaged by researching and collecting too much information. For this book, I was so fortunate to find her autobiography freely available on the web. Her autobiography is very detailed and gave me a sense of her personality and motivation. I highlighted sections of it that I knew I wanted to have in my book and took notes. I’m aware that sometimes a person writing an autobiography much later in life (she wrote it when she was 85), may not recall as precisely, or may have a different perspective on an earlier period, so I consulted other sources, primarily from the Jewish Women’s Archive and several magazine articles about her. I also researched the history of Chicago during the period she lived and was most active. I recall how helpful was a source I found about what it was like for immigrants living in the shoddy, poor section of Chicago where Hannah and other women from NCJW provided services. I was somewhat disappointed that the editorial staff at Kar-Ben did not include my selected list of sources in the back matter.
TWM: Who inspires you to write? Who do you like to read?
BL: I guess I inspire myself to write because I have such a long list of ideas for books. I so much love reading picture books and middle-grade novels that I find myself somewhat driven to write. It’s been a slow process over eight years to learn more about writing for young children. I still struggle with finding my voice.
I read fiction and non-fiction picture books and middle grade novels, along with adult fiction and non-fiction. Some of the children’s writers I most admire are Deborah Underwood, Mo Willems, Lisa Wheeler, Melissa Stewart, Samantha Berger, and Julie Fogilano. For adult fiction and non-fiction, I’m very eclectic and don’t really have very many favorite authors, although I do admire and read the work of Sholem Aleichem, Philip Roth, Michael Chabon, Alice Hoffman, Cynthia Ozick, and Nathan Englander.
TWM: What’s next for you?
BL: I’m working on a children’s graphic novel and also picture book biography of Laura Margolis, known as the “savior of Shanghai.” She was an adventurous social worker for the Joint Distribution Committee pre- and post-World War II. She was instrumental in saving the lives of thousands of Jewish refugees in Shanghai during WW II, as well as serving in several European locations. She was part of two historic events — the MS St. Louis ship turned away from landing in Cuba with nearly1,000 European Jews and the 1947 Exodus ship turned away from landing in Haifa. I’m also working on polishing several narrative non-fiction picture books.
TWM: Thanks so much, Bonnie! Now, let’s turn to illustrator Sofia Moore. What strategies did you use to translate Bonnie’s text to illustration?
Sofia Moore (SM): Because this book is a biography I wanted the illustrations look as a continuation of the narrative with the ability to show important historical details. The research part was the most fun for me, I loved looking for the period fashion, architecture and details of Hanna’s everyday life. Bonnie did a great job pacing the story the way it was easy for me to start imagining how the images would follow the text and what should be in focus on each page.
TWM: What medium did you use?
SM: I painted on paper using ink and acrylic paints and then finished in Photoshop, adding small details and adjusting colors.
TWM: How did you decide on illustration placement?
SM: The placement was given to me by an art director in most cases, but when I had something different in mind, the team that worked with me was very flexible and
I had freedom to make changes.
TWM: Please describe your research process.
SM: I created a Pinterest board where I collected images of late 1800s Chicago, architecture, clothing details, photographs of immigrant families of that time. Great source of
information came from Hannah’s autobiography, The Fabric of My Life, that I found online and gave me so many ideas of how to illustrate Hannah for children. Her big loving family,
passion to help other people, her strong leadership nature was great inspiration.