If you’re getting tired of reading “Goodnight Moon” to your little ones, here’s a suggestion: Try “Layla Tov Teaneck.”
Written by Teaneck lawyer Shira Forman, “Layla Tov Teaneck” is now available at The Purple Bow, Teaneck Judaica, and On the Table. With descriptive rhymes and colorful illustrations, the reader says “Layla Tov” to the children in the book getting into bed after a busy day, and to the familiar places in their daily routine. Your own children will have lots of fun recognizing the sights and sounds of their hometown.
The light bulb went on in Forman’s head when the family was having dinner at EJ’s Place one night. “I always had in mind to write a children’s book,” said Forman, who worked as a reporter for a local paper in Brooklyn before attending Columbia Law School. “One day it hit me that it would be nice for the children of Teaneck to have their own book to see things they recognize. My kids love to see familiar things.” With that thought percolating in her mind, she watched the kids running around at EJ’s and thought about how her kids would remember all the fun places where they grew up. “Then I said to my husband, ‘Layla Tov Teaneck,’ and the idea took off from there.”
Forman connected with Yoel Judowitz, an accomplished illustrator in Detroit who has worked on Jewish children’s books, and they developed a process to put the book together. Forman wrote and revised the text and sent videos and photos of Teaneck to Judowitz. “We wanted the book to feel like this neighborhood and community,” she said.
All the illustrations are loosely based on actual photos. “None are exact representations,” said Forman. “Just enough to give you a sense that these are places you know.” And people who know the Formans may have an idea who served as the inspiration for the two adorable kids getting into bed in “Layla Tov.” From there, the book takes you on a scenic tour of the area. Of course, EJ’s is included. And The Jewish Link makes an appearance. She apologizes in advance to anyone who feels left out that they aren’t in the book.
Forman didn’t have a publisher when she began; she knew this was going to be her project all the way. “There are companies that could manage the project for you but I enjoy working through different decisions,” Forman said. “I didn’t want to give over that creative license to someone else. There was no model to follow because the book is so local. It wasn’t appropriate for a company. It had to be all me.”
The journey was time consuming, with much back and forth with Judowitz to perfect the illustrations, but it went smoothly. Aside from consulting with copyright experts and securing the necessary ISBN number, Forman didn’t have to draw on her legal skills. Marketing is her next challenge. She hopes to connect with local shuls and schools to sell books and donate money from the sales back to the them. She plans to donate all proceeds from book sales to tzedaka.
Forman is open to the possibility that “Layla Tov” could serve as a model for other communities to have their own books. She thinks about how she might do “Layla Tov” in Flatbush, where she grew up. “Let’s see how this goes first,” she said, now that she knows how much effort went into “Layla Tov Teaneck.” “It’s a lot of work in addition to my job and my family.” Layla tov, Shira. You need some sleep, too!
By Bracha Schwartz