Hanukkah gifts for kids that love books!

My newest book just came out, right in time for Chanukah! It’s called “Sat on a Hat” by Bracha Goetz and it is adorable, funny, and perfect for early readers!

Final cover

It’s about a boy who puts his hat down and then forgets where he left it. Is it in school? In shul? On a truck or a duck?  On a fireman? On the moon? He’s in for a surprise when it finally turns up…

Buy Sat on a Hat here!


“Hashem’s Candy Store,” also written by Bracha Goetz, is perfect for kids who love their fruits and veges (or need some encouragement to eat more of them). A brother and sister take a trip to the “Candy Shop” which sells all sorts of delicious and natural treats. From the Shop they enjoy a car ride, a picnic, some family time, and little education about nutrition and how different foods help certain body parts.  Take a look inside “Hashem’s Candy Store.”

Buy Hashem’s Candy Store store here!


I loved the book “Shuki’s Upside-Down Dream” by Yaffa Ganz when I was a little girl. But now this classic is newly illustrated by myself, and it’s more fun that ever! Shuki is upset about Great Aunt Esther’s upcoming visit. She’s old, she can’t see well, and she likes peace and quiet. That night he has an upside-down dream where he is old, his baby brother is grown-up, and Aunt Esther is a pretty young woman with a lesson on honoring your elders! When he wakes up, his attitude has changed for the better.

Buy Shuki’s Upside-Down Dream here!

Final cover

Chani Fischman’s “Good Shabbos Benny” is a fun book about counting and looking forward to Shabbos. As Benny counts down a week until Shabbos comes, he also counts his shabbos clothes as he lays them out, ready to wear. Take a look inside “Good Shabbos Benny” here!

Buy Good Shabbos Benny here!

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My Newest Picture Book Illustrates that Fruits & Veges can be Fun

It’s called “Hashem’s Candy Store” and is available for purchase online at Israel Bookshop Publications or on Amazon! Check it out and let me know what you think!

What do you think you would see If you opened the door— What would you find on the shelves In Hashem’s Candy Store? In this adorable book by bestselling author Bracha Goetz, kids will learn the most amazing things about some of the yummiest “candy” available on the market—namely, the delicious fruits and vegetables that Hashem created. Children will devour the captivating rhymes and illustrations…and don’t be surprised if you soon find them beginning to devour their fruits and veggies, too!”

Here are a couple spreads from inside the book:

candy store 8-9 candy store 20-21 candy store 24-25


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Shavuot means Cheesecake… and Paper dolls!

Last year I made up some paper dolls from the story of Ruth, which is read on Shavuos. I wish I had time to post a little bit more about Ruth and why we read about her on this holiday but you can go to Aish.com and read up on her yourself! I have to get back to my drawing :)

Hope the kids enjoy these, and gives you a few minutes of peace and quiet. Chag Sameach!

Ruth Paper dolls (1) Ruth Paper dolls (2) Ruth Paper dolls (3)

If you like this project, please LIKE me on FB: Art by Dena’s Facebook Page. Thanks!

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Sneak Peek at New Picture Book!

I am just about finishing up the illustrations for a picture book that will probably be called “Good Shabbos Benny” by Chani Fischman (Feldheim) which is about a little boy counting down the days until Shabbos (Shabbat). He’s so excited about wearing all his nice Shabbos clothes, so each day he sets aside another item so it will be ready. Here’s a little preview:


five polish

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Growing up with an Orthodox, single parent

I wanted to share an interview that Rebecca Klempner did with the Tzivia Erhlich Klien, the author of “I Live with my Mommy.” I found it very interesting, as I didn’t have any contact with the author during the process of illustrating her book. Nice to go behind-the-scenes and see what goes into publishing a “controversial” book like this one!

bookI Live With My Mommy: new Jewish picture book addresses life with a single mother

RK: What led you to write about children living with a single mother?

 TEK: Over 30 years ago I got divorced. At that time it was — or at least seemed to be — very rare [in the Orthodox community]. Walking my (approximately) 4-year-old daughter home from gan (nursery school) with her friend, I overheard her explaining to her friend: “No, my abba (daddy) didn’t die. They got ‘vorced.”
As I couldn’t find any books for children on being [at home with a parent who was] divorced, I wrote my own to read to her. Read the rest of the interview here.

“I Live with my Mommy” is due out…. soon!!  Order your copy here!

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New Picture Book for Children of Divorce

A couple weeks ago I finished illustrating a book called “I Live with my Mommy,” written by Tzivia Erlich-Klein and to-be-published by Menucha Publishers. It’s a story about a little girl and boy whose parents are divorced, and it is geared toward frum (religious) Jewish families. I think it is the first of its kind!


It’s a difficult topic and the story is sad at times, but through the illustrations I tried to create a warm, comforting book that children and parents will want to read. It is due out this Spring (2014) and I am curious to see what the reaction will be like.


The author explains that sometimes small children have a hard time verbalizing the things that worry or disturb them.  This book was written to provide kids with an opening to talk about their feelings surrounding the divorce.mommymommy1

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Not Always Perfect

I admit it… even I am not always perfect, however this time I’m referring to the title of a small reader published by A.E.L. publications, called “Chaya’s Story: Not Always Perfect.”

DSCN6051 DSCN6052

It’s always fun to see my illustrations in print! This one has one color illustration on the cover and seven black-and-white ones inside. Working on Book 2 now!


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(Self)Portrait of an Artist

This piece was published in Family First/Mishpacha magazine this week. Enjoy!

Portrait of an Artist

The self-portrait: every artist’s got one. Some have many. I, personally, have done three.

What is it about a self-portrait that is so engaging? Is it merely a reflection of the artist’s peculiar self-absorption? Is it the belief that in all of G-d’s glorious creation there is nothing as lovely or as worthy of recording for posterity as my own exquisite face? Maybe it is simply a practical exercise in light and color using the most readily available model? Or perhaps it is an honest attempt at self-discovery, an inner struggle to answer the eternal question, Who am I?

As an artist, I will tell you the truth: I don’t know. All I know is that there is something oddly satisfying about the self-portrait.

Art, thankfully, is not photography. When you see a picture of yourself, you are more likely than not going to exclaim, “That is not me! I am not that pale! Is that my nose? I do not have that many wrinkles! And is that a sheitel or a bird’s nest sitting on my head?!” And when, due to a miraculous fluke in the lighting, you finally get a picture that makes you look taller, younger, thinner, and prettier than the person you usually see in the mirror, you have an urge to blow it up and hang in the living room. Or maybe put it on a billboard. Instead, you simply send it out on the upcoming holiday card, or forward it to everyone on your email list. Cropped in a number of interesting ways, in case anyone wasn’t paying attention the first or second time it flashed across the screen.

But with a paintbrush, you are master of your own destiny. You want roses in your cheeks, an aristocratic nose, and silky chestnut curls? Not a problem. While I’m at it, I’ll erase those fine lines and blemishes.

That’s not to say you won’t recognize the finished product as me, in all my painted glory. I pride myself on my ability to capture a likeness. But a little artistic license never hurts, if you know what I mean.

When you use self-portraits as landmarks in the journey of self- discovery, it’s a fascinating ride. The first recorded self-portrait of the great artist, Dena Ackerman, dates back to her youth, when she was about thirteen years of age. You can see that she takes her art, and herself, very seriously. Not a glimmer of a smile, no Mona Lisa mystery. Just a fine pencil drawing of an awkward adolescent, large plastic glasses and all. It will be a few years before she learns that staring straight into the mirror with a poker face is not the ideal way to portray oneself to one’s best advantage.

Here we are, a few years later. We see a bit more creativity in terms of pose and attitude. This self-portrait is all long hair, long legs, and ego. I suppose that’s what being sixteen is all about. Shockingly narcissistic. Let’s move right along.

Ah, 2013. An absolutely lovely self-portrait! See how serene she is, how demure, as she gazes down tenderly at her brood of four? See how they cluster around her like little angels dressed in white, so innocent and loving. And clean!

Acrylic portrait on canvas

The Angelic Ackermans

Yes, this is me! These are my children! I could stare at this vision of loveliness for hours. Again I have to wonder, am I really so obsessed with myself? The painting is finished; it has a happy home in Florida on my grandparent’s mantel. Let’s get back to real life, and put in a load of laundry. Or pull the kids apart before someone gets seriously injured.

When the kids are not exactly behaving like angels, and I’m feeling frazzled and not particularly loving, I wish I had that portrait hanging in my own living room. Then I could reassure myself that the image on the canvas is what my real life looks like. The scene in my kitchen, with all four kids screaming for my attention at the same time, where I’m wearing the same clothes as I wore yesterday because I fell asleep in them and didn’t bother to change this morning, is an aberration. Really, my life is picture-perfect. Or rather, painting-perfect.

My sixteen-year-old self done in pencil would agree.

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Bats, Cats, & Hats: Counting on Kindle

I was asked to illustrate an e-book for someone in my area. The story is cute, but simple, and is called “I Love Everything Pink” (sound like a little girl you might know?) As I was working on it, I thought, “Why not write and illustrate my own e-books?”


I wanted to keep it simple, since I wasn’t sure how it would go over… The results are this super cute (if I do say so myself) counting book for kids, which also has a kind of Halloween theme for the upcoming holiday. “Bats, Cats & Hats“…it’s up now on Amazon!It was fun to make, and I hope you’ll find it fun to read, too! I can’t wait to do more!


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How to get your Jewish Children’s Book Published

I received the following email from someone who is looking for advice on publishing and/or self-publishing and finding an illustrator for a children’s book. I don’t consider myself an expert, but I figured I’d post whatever I have learned that might be helpful, in case it can help any one else out there!

QUESTION: I have a few questions, if you have time to answer. Any info or advice would be really helpful. 1. Can you choose the dimensions and paper stock of the book? 2. How do you submit the work once the text and illustrations are finished? 3. How do you get an ISBN and copyright? 4. How does distribution work? Can u choose where you distribute? 5. How many copies will be distributed? 6. How does profit work? 7. Where do you start? Do you know of good self publishing companies? Are there Jewish ones that I can submit to? Thanks!

DISCLAIMER: this post is really only about publishing children’s books with Jewish publishers, who are for the most part more “heimish” than the other publishing houses out there. If you are looking to publish a book for the general public, then this post will probably not be helpful, as the process is often more complex.

Submitting Your Book to Jewish Publishers

For people like me who want to focus on their art (writing, illustrating) and not on the nitty-gritty business end of things, or who don’t have the funds to invest, you should submit your book to a publisher who will cover the costs of editing, printing, marketing, and distributing your book, as opposed to self-publishing. You may be paid an advance and/or earn royalties when the book starts selling.

It’s a good idea to do your homework first by reading the submission guidelines of various publishers, looking around their website, or browsing in your local book store to see what type of books are being published by which publishers.

Here is a list of the Jewish Publishers I know of, who publish books for children. If anyone want to add to the list, please leave a comment, and I will update it! If you click on any of these links, you will be taken to their Submissions Guidelines.

The ones with a star after them cater to the Orthodox community. The others have a broader Jewish readership (correct me if I’m wrong!). Some of these publishers accept very few children’s books manuscripts annually. Like I mentioned before, you should figure out which publishers would be the best fit for your book, rather than sending it out randomly.

Most publishers do not appreciate simultaneous submissions. This means send each manuscript to only one publisher at a time, and wait until you get a response before sending it to someone else. This can take a few weeks to a few months. If you don’t get any response after a couple weeks you can follow up just to make sure they received your submission.

Finding an Illustrator for your Children’s Book

Most publishers do not require that you submit illustrations with your book. Many do not even want you to, preferring to chose their own illustrator. Then there are some publishers that do require the author to hire their own illustrator. In this case you can include sample illustrations or a link to the artist’s portfolio. The author then has to pay the illustrator out of pocket, find a sponsor, or  make some kind of deal with the artist, such as paying an advance (this means some money upfront- artists have bills to pay too!) and splitting royalties.

However, I have learned that even the publishers who do not request illustrations are open to receiving samples and suggestions. If there is an illustrator you admire or really want to have illustrate your book (ahem!) you should let the publisher know, and they may well agree to it.

Self-Publishing: I don’t have much information on self-publishing, other than the fact that is involves a big investment on the part of the author. The author finances the entire publishing process and works with the distributor. There is always an element of risk since you can’t be sure how well the book will sell. But if it does sell well, you make all the profit as opposed to just earning a small royalty.

Some publishers also offer joint-publishing, where the author and publisher share the costs involved.

Book size, Paper stock, ISBN, Copyrights, Distribution…. If you find a publisher to take on the costs of your book, they will deal with all this stuff. You can discuss everything with them (from my experience they’re all really lovely people and aim to please!) but they’ll probably have the final say. If you are self-publishing then, again, I’m not sure how it would work.

E-books: Not the topic of this post, but a whole new way of publishing that requires a minimum (if any) investment and can be accomplished in a fraction of the time it takes to publish a “real” book. And of course you don’t have to wait for an editor to accept your book!

Anyone out there who wants to share their experiences and advice would be very welcome. Thank you!

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