“Have I Got a Story for You!” is a new podcast by PJ Library that gives classic Jewish folk tales a modern twist and brings them to sparkling life for families seeking an entertaining, enriching diversion from digital life.
“Have I Got a Story for You!” has launched this fall with five stories, including “Two Sisters,” about a pair of siblings who are best friends, alike in every way – except that one has really bad allergies; and “The Truth About Cats and Dogs,” which follows the friendship between the first of their species in the time of Adam and Eve, based on an old story from the Middle Ages. The hilarious “Moon Station One,” takes place 70 years in the future on a crowded moon base, a story which ultimately teaches children about gratitude. Eight more streaming episodes will post on Tuesdays throughout the fall at https://pjlibrary.org/podcast.
As each episode posts this fall, kids and parents may click on the episode page to find activities, book lists, and keep the fun going beyond the family listening experience. Meredith Lewis currently serves as the Director of Content, Education, and Family Experience for PJ Library in North America. In that role, she manages the creation of books and other new content, oversees PJ Library’s role in the field of Jewish education, and serves as the chief “knower” of families for the PJ Library enterprise. Meredith has also worked as a writer, youth group director, and teacher. She recently discussed PJ Library and her hopes for its future.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in books and how did that lead to your involvement with PJ Library?
Meredith Lewis (ML): I came to this work through digital publishing. But I was an early reader as a child and never stopped. It’s been an amazing experience to work with the authors of some of my favorite books as a kid.
MM: These stories are based in Jewish folklore, but do you think the stories might be interesting and enjoyable for non-Jewish children too?
ML: Absolutely. Folktales travel the world with people throughout history. So “Jewish” folktales are also Middle Eastern, Europe, Asian, African. And today more so than ever, it’s crucial for people to hear stories that include people with different backgrounds and heritages.
MM: How do you find the books and authors that you select to work with?
ML: Any author, publisher, or agents can submit manuscripts and books to us. Our team also constantly scours library shelves, reads new reviews, and meets with authors to encourage them to contribute to our program.
MM: Which of the books are your personal favorites and why?
ML: One of my favorite books is “Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins.” The story tells the tale of Herschel of Ostropol, a young man on a mission to banish ghoulish goblins who are haunting a local synagogue and preventing everyone from celebrating Hanukkah. It’s equal parts scary and humorous, with award-winning illustrations. It’s a book we distribute through PJ Library, thirty years after it was first written and it still feels as fresh as ever.
MM: What are you most excited about regarding the Have I Got a Story for You! podcast?
ML: Families spend a lot of time on the move—in between multiple jobs, activities, and travel. We’re excited to bring the intimacy of storytelling to wherever families need to be. Plus, we’ve been able to share many stories that haven’t been adapted to books (yet)!
MM: What’s next for PJ Library in 2020?
ML: We are busy creating new content for families. We are working on season two of Have I Got a Story for You! and have also partnered with Kosher.com to create a kids focused cooking show. We are also expanding the number of books released through PJ Library Publishing, our own imprint.
MM: How do you hope PJ Library will evolve in the future?
ML: We’re going to continue to evolve with our families. That means we’ll send books and create content on topics that are important to them and relate to what’s happening in our world. We’ll also work to distribute content on channels that are easiest for families to read and share. Fifteen years ago, when we were founded, we’ve couldn’t have predicted we’d have a podcast in 2019.
MM: Is there anything else that you would like to mention?
ML: Families can sign up at pjlibrary.org/signup to receive the best in Jewish kid lit each month to read with their children and support their family’s connection to Jewish life. Authors who are interested in submitting manuscripts can learn more here.
PJ Library is an award-winning program started by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation that engages families by giving free Jewish-themed books and music to children ages 6 months to 12 years. To learn more, visit: www.hgf.org and www.pjlibrary.org