A spate of Kate

Children’s author Kate Feiffer, May 2011

A spate of Kate

Children’s author brings three programs to town

By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer


Kate Feiffer

The last time Kate Feiffer was in Dayton, she was a documentary filmmaker. Now, she returns as the author of nine acclaimed children’s books.
She’ll read her latest books and lead arts, crafts, and scavenger hunts on May 5 for the DJCC and Washington-Centerville Public Library.

Kate says she hopes to connect with children at their level while making them laugh. Her titles, including My Mom Is Trying To Ruin My Life (awarded a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly) and But I Wanted A Baby Brother (a 2010 Jewish Book Club selection) pop off the bookshelves.

The only child of cartoonist and writer Jules Feiffer, Kate says she often draws on her childhood experiences — and her experiences as the mother of a now 12-year-old daughter — for her children’s books. Her dad, 82, has illustrated three of them.

“What made him a terrific Dad was that he sort of understood children,” she says. “He understood me, so he would do the things that we all now know we’re supposed to do with our kids, you know, get down on their level and play with them on the floor.”

She says they would draw cartoon strips together endlessly when Kate was a little girl.

Kate tries to express their father-daughter connection in her latest book, My Side Of The Car, based on an experience they had on a drive when she was a girl. Her father provided the illustrations for this one too.

Her first instinct was not to have him illustrate her books.

“I knew that if I wanted to do this on my own, I should not make it look like I was riding on his coattails,” she says. “On the other hand, he’s an obviously wonderful illustrator. It would be kind of silly not to do something with him.”

A native New Yorker from a secular Jewish background, Kate and her family live on Martha’s Vineyard. She describes herself as a “full-time mom and a full-time writer” who works out of her home.

Before moving to the island, she was a television producer in Boston.

In 2007, Kate produced the documentary Matzo & Mistletoe about her own Jewish journey.

She had no idea she was Jewish until her father mentioned it when she was 6. The film and Kate both came to the Dayton Jewish International Film Festival that year.

“I loved my Dayton screening,” she says. “There was such a warm feeling and the reception was great. I was excited when I got invited to come for the books.”

Kate says she made Matzo & Mistletoe to discover what her Jewish identity meant to her.

“I figured by going through this process in the film, I would find some closure and some greater understanding,” she says. “And while I got a lot out of that experience, what I did not get was closure. There just isn’t going to be closure on that issue.”

DJCC Cultural Arts & Book Festival & Washington-Centerville Public Library present children’s author Kate Feiffer on Thursday, May 5: 10 a.m. at the Boonshoft CJCE, 525 Versailles Dr., Centerville; 4 p.m. at the Washington-Centerville Public Library, 111 W. Spring Valley Rd.; and 7 p.m. at Books & Co., at the Greene. From 4-9 p.m., 10 percent of sales at Books & Co. will benefit the DJCC Cultural Arts Fund. Use promotional code 6000000294. All programs are free. For more information, call Karen Steiger at 853-0372.

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