Author Spotlight: Joy Wieder

Feb. 7, 2020

Today we are excited to feature author Joy Wieder and her debut picture book, THE PASSOVER MOUSE, illustrated by 
Shahar Kober (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, Jan. 2020). Enter to win a copy!

Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.

I’ve always wanted to write and illustrate children’s books since I was young, but I didn’t pursue it until I had my own children. Shortly after my first child was born in 1987, my mom got sick and passed away when my daughter was just six months old. I realized that life is short and if I don’t pursue my dreams, I may not get the chance to do it. I finally got up the courage to write down my stories and submit them for publication. It took ten years to get my first book published!

Congrats on your debut picture book, THE PASSOVER MOUSE. Tell us about it and what inspired you.

THE PASSOVER MOUSE is a rollicking, funny, and ultimately inspiring story about a little mouse that disrupts a town’s preparations for the holiday when it steals a piece of leavened bread–or chometz–just as all the houses have been swept clean in time for the holiday. The mouse tears through the town, spoiling everyone’s hard work. Just when it seems as if the townsfolk will never be ready for their Seder, the little mouse’s actions unwittingly bring everyone together, to work as a group to save the holiday.

It’s an original tale based on a question in the Talmud, a collection of Jewish laws with commentaries by ancient rabbis. I stumbled across the Talmudic question while doing research for another book I was writing. In the section of Talmud discussing all the laws and rituals of Passover, I read a discussion by the rabbis about the possibility of a mouse bringing bread into a house that had already been searched for chometz. They wondered if the house would have to be searched again and came up with several scenarios – what if a mouse with a piece of bread went into a house, but a different mouse came out of the house carrying a piece of bread? Is the second mouse carrying the same piece of bread or a different piece? The rabbis went around and around the issue, but in the end, they never made a decision. I was in shock! How could the rabbis take so much time to discuss an issue and then leave the question unanswered? I knew I had to come up with an answer and finally solve the ancient conundrum.

Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

It was definitely a long and winding road! In fact, it took 18 years between concept and publication. I wrote the first draft back in 2002. Then it won Best Picture Book Text in a Jewish children’s book writing contest in 2004 and was considered for publication by two Jewish publishers and two mainstream publishers. When they all turned it down, I was crushed. I put the files away in a plastic bin in the basement where it stayed for many years. It wasn’t until the story won honorable mention for the SCBWI/PJ Library Jewish Stories in 2018 that it got interest from industry professionals, and it finally became a published book on Jan. 28, 2020!

What projects are you working on now?
I’m actually working on a sequel! My editor, Frances Gilbert, Editor-in-Chief at Doubleday Books for Young Readers, mentioned that she wanted to work on another book from THE PASSOVER MOUSE team and suggested a Hanukkah story. But I was inspired to write a Purim story, and I hope she loves it as much as the first book.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Don’t give up! I hope my road to publication can inspire others to hang in there. Sometimes you just have to have enough patience and persistence to find the right time and place for your story.

What is one thing most people don't know about you?
Growing up in Kansas, I watched The Wizard of Oz every spring during tornado season. I do a great impression of the Wicked Witch of the West, and when my kids were young, I used to scare them with her cackle. “I’ll get you, my pretty!”

Where can people find you online?

I have a webpage for THE PASSOVER MOUSE with a book trailer, reviews, and fun activities for kids at

You can also find me at:

JOY NELKIN WIEDER is an author and illustrator of children’s books. Her debut picture book The Passover Mouse, illustrated by Shahar Kober, received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews as “an excellent addition to the Jewish tradition.” The Passover Mouse, published by Doubleday Books for Young Readers, also received honorable mention for the SCBWI/PJ Library Jewish Stories Award and was chosen as a PJ Library selection. Joy is the author/illustrator of several Jewish chapter books for children, including The Secret Tunnel and The Great Potato Plan which is based on her grandfather’s family in Warsaw, Poland during WWI. She has also written over two dozen leveled readers for the educational market.  She and her husband live in Massachusetts and have three grown children. Learn more about her work at

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  1. CONGRATS, what a cute mouse and your publishing story is inspiring. It gives me hope. I follow Frances Gilbert on twitter and she has gushed about this book. I can't wait to read it, Joy.

    1. Thanks, Kathy! Frances has been an amazing supporter of this book. I hope you'll enter the giveaway.

  2. What a cute mouse! --I wasn't familiar with the word "chometz" before!

    1. Thanks, John. Shahar did a great job with the illustrations. I'm glad you learned something, too!

  3. What a great looking book! I'd love to have a copy. Thanks for the chance to win one.

  4. What a perfect story for the upcoming Passover season Congrats Joy

  5. Wow - what a journey! 18 years! I've been debating whether to give up on some of my PB ideas, but this encouraged me to keep going. Plus, I just love Jewish stories! Can't wait to read this one.

  6. I enjoyed the interview today and congratulations on your publication and fulfilling your writing dreams. I will love reading this book and learning more about this Jewish holiday.

  7. I love The Great Potato Plan and The Secret Tunnel! Can't wait to see this book.

  8. Congrats on your debut picture book! Looks wonderful.

  9. Congrats, Joy! I can't wait to read this lovely book! I love holiday themed books. They always have such a warm, fuzzy feeling to them. Thank you for the chance to win a copy!!

  10. Congratulations on your picture book! I am a undergraduate student in Baltimore, MD and am currently student-teaching at an elementary school with 5th graders in a local county. My mentor teacher has shared about her judaism faith with the class and me. She even had the opportunity to travel to Israel this past December. I remember her talking about how, as a child, there weren't many selections to choose from that centered on her cherished jewish holidays. I would love love love to win this book so that I would be able to surprise her with a gift! Thanks for the chance to enter!!


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