It’s Poetry Friday! Thanks to this week’s host, Janice Scully of the blog Salt City Verse. Visit Janice for links to poetry posts and National Poetry Month projects from the whole PF blogging community.

I have a special treat for you today, poets and poetry fans… a soon-to-be-published poem from Jane Yolen!

Jane was kind enough to contribute an opening poem for the new middle grade anthology COMING OF AGE: 13 B’NAI MITZVAH STORIES.

Find it at Or try your luck with this Twitter giveaway!

The book, edited by authors Henry Herz and Jonathan Rosen, publishes on April 19, just as Jews around the world celebrate Passover.

Here is the Booklist review, to tell you a little bit more about COMING OF AGE:

Twelve short stories and a poem, connected by shared faith and stage of life, explore the Jewish rite of passage of b’nai (bar and bat) mitzvah in an expansive and accessible collection for middle-grade readers of any faith. With contributions from notables including Jane Yolen (“Ceremony”) and Laura Shovan (“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Bimah”), this easygoing collection spans millennia and locales. Stops along the way include Noah’s Ark, the Upper West Side in 1922, hotel reception rooms, synagogues, Greece, and even the pun-filled Planet Latke. Mitzvot are made and valuable lessons learned, particularly among protagonists who appreciate the sentiment behind their simpler celebrations. “[T]he yacht, the band, the dancing—they were all false idols” to the girl envying her cousin’s lavish party from her own pandemic-era parking-lot affair. The feel-good collection weaves threads among disparate adolescent episodes in a way that successfully honors the individuality of the coming-of-age experience without losing sight of this unifying factor: Judaism. Mazel tov!

(Want more info? Details, reviews, and bonus resources are here.)

I am so excited to have a short story in this collection called “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Bimah.” The full list of contributors is Sarah Aronson, Nora Raleigh Baskin, Barbara Bottner, Stacia Deutsch, Debbie Reed Fischer, Debra Green Garfinkle, Henry Herz, Alan Katz, Nancy Krulik, Stacie Ramey, Jonathan Rosen, Melissa Roske, and me, plus Jane Yolen’s poem.

After you read Jane’s poem, stick around and I’ll tell you a little bit about my story.

by Jane Yolen

Whether or not there is a ceremony,
you will come of age.
Life hands you days, years,
not parties.
It is the days that count,
the years.
“Wear them well,”
my grandmother used to say.
And I do,
even though Bat Mitzvahs
hadn’t been invented yet.



Here is a sneak peek at my story’s plot…

Dani Karet is in a pickle. It’s almost time for a pre-bat mitzvah check-in with the rabbi, but Dani still hasn’t written her d’var Torah (speech). When she asks friends and family for help, their advice ranges from choreographing the Ten Plagues as a K-Pop routine to telling dinosaur fart jokes. Will Dani come up the perfect speech or will she snap before the big day?

and one of its themes, being an ally…

In “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Bimah,” Dani Karet’s two best friends aren’t Jewish, but that doesn’t stop them from understanding her. Astrid and Nerf get how nervous Dani is about giving a speech, so they help her brainstorm ideas for her D’var Torah. By focusing on Dani’s emotions, rather than any unease they feel about attending a b’nai mitzvah, Astrid and Nerf show what it means to be good allies to a friend.

22 responses to “Poetry Friday: New Book! Coming of Age”

  1. Linda Baie says:

    Your story sounds so nice and thoughtful, Laura. I’ve attended many bat mitzvahs & bar mitzvahs for students through the years, their parties, too, special celebrations! I even had the honor of speaking at one. Jane’s poem with the advice to “Wear them well,” is all that’s needed, but my older granddaughter turns 13 next week, though we aren’t Jewish, we will offer some life’s advice to her, too. Thanks for sharing more about this new book.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Linda. This story was my first attempt at writing humor! I had a lot of fun with it. Happy thirteenth birthday to your granddaughter. Becoming a teenager is an important milestone.

  2. This sounds like a great book for all. I’ll put it on my list. Jane Yolen is amazing!

  3. Sounds like a fascinating read Laura, I’m hooked and like the humor in “choreographing the Ten Plagues as a K-Pop routine,” and want to find out more.… Congrats on being included in this short story collection. Thanks for sharing Jane’s poem too!

  4. Congratulations on your story in this collection. We need these books in the world.

  5. what a gift – both the Jane Yolen poem and a preview of your short story! Thank you!

  6. Well, HOW exciting! I’m so happy that we are trying to take good care of our middle-schoolers with this, Imperfect II, and other books that straddle MG and YA (I think I’m still behind the times in considering MG to include 3rd-6th graders, not just middle school). Congrats on your part in this, Laura! Show us a pic of you at your bat mitzvah!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Heidi. I agree — we need more books specifically for our middle schoolers. It will be my turn to post a bat mitzvah photo on April 18, so be sure to check Twitter on Monday!

  7. Mary Lee says:

    What an important collection!

  8. Linda Mitchell says:

    I am absolutely delighted that this collection is written and soon to be in the hands of tweens and teens. In all the challenges of this school year, I’ve noticed a lack of understanding between students of faith. There have been times that it’s clear that more understanding is needed and this book can help so much! Thank you for being a contributor and telling us more and sharing Jane Yolen’s poem. It all is important work that we very much need right now.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Linda. Thank you! Thankfully, more middle grade books are being published where children’s relationships with faith are — if not central to the story — part of their characters.

  9. Oooh, congratulations, Laura, on your story. It sounds both funny and also filled with heart! And thanks for this wonderful Jane Yolen poem. “Life hands you days, years, / not parties.” Wow.

  10. Congratulations on this collection, Laura. Jane Yolen’s poem is the icing on an already terrific cake.

  11. Elisabeth says:

    This sounds like a lovely book – thanks for sharing this poem and the preview of your story with us today.

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Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Her second book, Takedown, is a Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selection. Look for A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, in 2020. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools Maryland.

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