Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Children's author Lana Button is available for school presentations

If you're a teacher, school librarian, or principal you want to have Lana in to give a presentation – or if you have child in kindergarten to Grade 6, talk to your child’s teacher about getting Lana in. I’ve heard her present many times and she’s great. ~Brian 

Lana Button is an early childhood educator and the children's author of 11 popular picture books. Her 45-minute school presentation describes the writing and editing process and incorporates social-emotional learning as she shares three of her books aloud, and then discusses empathy, resilience, and inclusion.

Lana's presentations have often been described as inspiring, educational and entertaining, and involve student participation, singing, movement breaks, and a question-answer period. She performs her books out loud while displaying illustrations on a large screen for every student to enjoy.

Two Presentation Options:

Kindergarten to Grade 3

Grade 4 to Grade 6 


"Lana was an incredibly engaging presenter for our K-5 students and brought up many pertinent topics like wealth inequality and empathy through perspective-taking in student-friendly ways. She was able to connect to a whole gym full of students through her personal stories, picture books, and personality. I would highly recommend having her come talk at your school!"
  - Alexis Silvera, Teacher-Librarian, Crystal View Elementary, Victoria, BC

“Lana is a wonderfully engaging presenter.  She had our kindergarten students’ attention from the moment she began speaking as a result of her sunny disposition and charming manner of presenting to groups. -Amy Westbury, Teacher
- Librarian, Bruce Trail Public School, Milton, ON

“Lana's name and the excellence of her presentation still resonates strongly with ALL the students and staff!!”
  - Karen Upper, Library Technician, Sundridge Elementary School, Sundridge, ON

What reviewers have said about Lana's books:

Tough Like Mum

One of CCBC’s Best Books for Kids and Teens, Fall 2021
A Canadian Children's Book Centre Favourite Book of the Year (2021)
“Powerful in its vulnerability.” —Kirkus Reviews
"Powerful stuff." —Wall Street Journal
"This tender tale imparts that asking for help shows toughness, too." —New York Times.    

 Tayra’s Not Talking

... a beautifully illustrated empathetic story about inclusion for primary-age children who may have or will encounter instances of nonverbal communication.—CM Magazine

 Raj’s Rule for the Bathroom at School

CCBC’s Best Bet, 2020

"Button subtly and effectively conveys how actions related to anxiety might disrupt a child’s academic and social performance, but this read-aloud will resonate with any reader who has faced a fear."
— Publishers Weekly

 You can find lots more information about Lana and her books at www.lanabutton.com or through social media @lanabutton

Contact her directly for more information or to book at lanabutton3@gmail.com

Let's connect on Twitter Instagram YouTube TikTok


See Brian Henry’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here. 

Monday, October 30, 2023

New book: Am Yisrael Chai (The People of Israel Live): Poems, Prayers, and Essays

My friend Gila Green writes from Israel:

I am honored to have a poem included in this collection. Please order and help raise emergency funds for so many in need.... 

Announcing the Publication of Am Yisrael Chai: Poems, Prayers, and Essays 94 Authors, One Heart  United in Solidarity with Israel

for Kedoshei Yisrael, our fallen ones, whose blessed memories will never fade.

for Am Yisrael, the Jewish People, our family all over the world.

for Medinat Yisrael, the State of Israel, our home, now and forever.

Am Yisrael Chai is an emergency response anthology of voices from all over the world, grieving and writhing from the horrors perpetrated upon the State of Israel on Simchat Torah 5784, October 7, 2023. Unfathomably terrible images are now forever emblazoned in our eyes, spread through social media where children have seen them as well.

The entire Jewish world is in trauma. This was not Poland in 1942. It was just days ago in the State of Israel. We bear witness. We must. This is a book of testimony and recollection, response and prayer. That's why the collection bears the title Am Yisrael Chai. This is our life – and we share it, recommitting to life itself, fighting for it, praying for it.


As of the moment this manuscript went to print, a mere nine days after the atrocity that struck our people in the heart, UJA-Federation of New York has raised over 85 million dollars from donors in support of our Emergency Israel Campaign, and we have already allocated 22 million of it to organizations on the ground in Israel who are supporting those in harm's way, those in dire need, and those who have lost family members. 

We are there in a profound way, to help our people in this dark time. All proceeds from this book project will support UJA-Federation of NY's Emergency Israel Campaign.

We will never bring back those whose lives we have lost. There are too many new stars in the sky. But we lift up our eyes to Heaven and we will remember them as a blessing. We will, as our hearts regain strength, heal that which has been broken. But we will never, not ever, be the same.

May this collection be of real support to our sisters and brothers, our parents, our grandparents, and most of all – our children.

May the Holy One bless Medinat Yisrael, the State of Israel, Reisheet Tz'michat Ge'ulateinu, the beginning of the flourishing of our redemption.

May our family see better days very, very soon.

Am Yisrael Chai!

TO ORDER on AMAZONAm Yisrael Chai: Essays, Prayers, and Poems 94 Authors, One Heart - United in Solidarity with Israel edited by Rabbi Menachem Creditor, artwork by Joanne Fink

Order the Paperback 

Read the Introduction 

for Kedoshei Yisrael, our fallen ones, whose blessed memories will never fade.

for Am Yisrael, the Jewish People, our family all over the world.

for Medinat Yisrael, the State of Israel, our home, now and forever.


Note: For information on Gila’s latest novel, With a Good Eye, see here.

See Brian Henry’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here. 


Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Free: Writers’ Room, Thursday afternoons, Nov 2, 9, 16, 23 & 30, Burlington Central Library

The Writers’ Room

A free program from the Burlington Library, weekly for 5 Thursdays

Burlington Central Library
2331 New Street
Burlington, Ontario (Map here)
November 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30
4:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Note that you do not have to have a Burlington library card to attend; this program is open to everyone. Just show up!

Join editor Brian Henry and aspiring writers in this unique participatory workshop series during November. November happens to be National Novel Writing Month, but you don't need to be writing a novel. All writers and would-be writers are welcome. 

Over the five weeks, work with Brian and fellow attendees to stretch your creative writing muscles, get expert advice on your writing process, and incorporate feedback into your work. 

The Writers’ Room

For any or all of the five weeks, you can come and spend time writing in the company of your fellow writers. There’s a special high-energy buzz you get in a room full of writers all working on their own creations.

The Discussion Room

On November 9, 16, and 30, Brian will be available for one-on-one discussions, brainstorming, and feedback on your writing project. If you like, bring 2 copies of something short (under 1,000 words) to share.

The Seminars

On November 2 and 23, everyone is invited to join Brian for wide-open question-and-answer sessions. Bring all your thoughts and questions to do with writing and the creative process. It might help to email Brian ahead of time about areas you’d like him to address. In the subject line, put: Burlington Library Writers’ Room. Send your email to: brain.henry123@gmail.com (yes, the peculiar spelling is correct: b-r-a

Brian Henryhas been a book editor and creative writing instructor for more than 25 years. He publishesQuick Brown Fox,Canadas most popular blog for writers, teaches creative writing online and in-person in Burlington, and has led workshops everywhere from Boston to Buffalo and from Sarnia to Saint John. But his proudest boast is that hehas helped many of his students get their first book published and launch their careers as authors.

See Brian’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

“Eating Gelato for Israel – a delicious way to fight back against the Nazis among us,” by Brian Henry

This past weekend, thousands of pro-Hamas protesters harassed diners at Café Landwer, a Jewish-owned, Israel-based restaurant with a few locations in Toronto. They banged on the windows and chanted, “Boycott! Boycott!” The Landwers are familiar with this sort of intimidation and with calls for an anti-Jewish boycott, having been chased out of Germany by the Nazis in the 1930s. {More here.}

 In a separate protest, the absurdly named Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East {CJPME} brought their pro-terrorism message to a Jewish community centre in downtown Toronto which hosts a daycare centre and a kindergarten. They terrorized the kids. 

PYM poster for pro-Hamas protest.
Samidoun produced an almost identical
poster for the Vancouver protest

The woman in the photo above with a megaphone is Ghada Sasa, a board member of the CJPME. In an interview, she claims that Hamas was not trying to kill any civilians – that it was the Israeli army that murdered all those kids at the music festival in southern Israel (see here).

For confirmed Jew-haters, it's not possible Jews can be the victim of evil; only perpetrators. That's how you get Holocaust denial, and it's how we're instantly getting widespread denial of the atrocities committed by Hamas.

The media is inaccurately describing these protests we're seeing across Canada as "pro-Palestinian," as if all Palestinians support atrocities. 

The Café Landwer protest was organized by Toronto4Palestine. In a post on the group’s Instagram page advertising its first rally on the day after the October 7 slaughter of 1,400 Israeli men women, and infants, the mass raping of women, and the kidnapping of more than 200 innocent people, Toronto4Palestine asked attendees to bring their flags and said, “Let’s celebrate.” 

They also noted that some people might give out sweets, as Hamas does in Gaza whenever they succeed in killing a Jew. 

Similarly, the Palestinian Youth Movement {PYM} has been active in organizing rallies across Canada. The advertisement for their first pro-Hamas rally in Toronto read:

An unprecedented series of events has taken place by our heroic resistance in Gaza – with over 30 Zionist hostages captured.… The resistance’s offensive attack has shaped a new precedent for our national liberation struggle and we remain steadfast in our right to resist by any means necessary. We call on our people in the far diaspora in Toronto to uplift and honour our resistance and our martyrs. Join us this Monday, October 9 at 2 pm at Nathan Phillips Square and celebrate!

Chai necklace {that's a hard H, as in
challah or Loch Lomond

For the PYM, every inch of Israel is occupied; “settlements” means every town, city and kibbutz in Israel; and “free Palestine,” means wipe  Israel off the map, as Yara Shoufani, one of the leaders of PYM sakes utterly clear here

The PYM is closely aligned with the grown-up group Samidoun, recognized by Germany and Israel as a terrorist group, and which also is organizing pro-Hamas demonstrations across the country. 

Samidoun in turn is very closely aligned with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which everybody recognizes as a terrorist group. {More here.}

In recent years, the Palestinian Youth Movement has been active in Canadian high schools, promoting their pro-terrorism message. {See here.}

The campaign to boycott Israelis has always been nothing but the less obviously brutal face of the terrorism campaign. Previously, this may not have been clear to most people. If it's not now, God help us.

Two years ago, I published the article below, “Eating gelato for Israel – a buy-cott tour of Toronto,” about how to counter the boycott campaign by buying from Israeli-related businesses, including Café Landwer. Since October 7, it’s become more relevant than ever.

But there are other ways of showing support. Since October 7, I’ve taken to wearing my Israel Defence Forces hoodie pretty much all the time. Wars are ugly and horrific, but for Israelis to ever sleep again, Hamas must be eradicated, and I don’t know of a better way, day to day, to show I’m behind Israel in this war than to wear my IDF hoodie.

Some people, though, are afraid. My next door neighbour says she’s not wearing her Star of David anymore. I don’t blame her. In Canada and in the world, Jews are a tiny minority. What would be wonderful would be for our fellow Canadians to show they're with us. For non-Jews to wear IDF hoodies, to hang Israeli flags on their houses, to wear a Star of David or a Chai – for all Canadians to say, Am Yisrael Chai – the people of Israel lives.

Note: This piece has also been published on TheJ.ca here.

Also, check out the Judaica webstore here.

Photos below all by Leah Henry

It’s a sweet job and we should all be doing it. With my daughter/photographer, Leah, I’ve undertaken to do a buy-cott tour of Toronto. We’re hitting spots targeted by the “we hate Israel” crowd, which means having to eat fabulous food.

Solato is our first stop. It’s an Israeli gelato company with a pop-up store in the trendy stackt market at Bathurst and Front streets in downtown Toronto. Solato’s opening was greeted by an online slander campaign, with one-star ratings on Google and nasty comments such as: “Great if you want a side of apartheid.”

Neil Stewart & Brian Henry

The slander campaign made the local news and Torontonians came down to show support. “We had line-ups out the door for hours,” says manager Neil Stewart. 

“People are still doing negative reviews,” he adds. “The funniest was ‘The manager is so rude.’”

The manager,” meaning Neil, a guy who could be in the running for the friendliest, most personable guy in Toronto.

And the gelato? Leah went for the dark chocolate with a slices of chocolate hazelnut fudge as a topping. “Delicious,” she announced.

I succumbed to amerana cherry. Also, delicious.

Next up: Aroma Espresso Bar, an Israeli chain with numerous locations in the Toronto area. It serves a variety of salads, sandwiches, and pastries, plus a parade of different coffees. Our local Aroma at Bathurst and Wilson caters to an Orthodox crowd so the cafe is strictly dairy. Other locations carry chicken & avocado and turkey sandwiches.

Tasting the blueberry peach crumble

Behind the counter, Rosie and her younger sister, Shira, are all smiles. Shira will be returning to grade 12 come September. Her older sister Rosie works at Aroma full-time. Her eventual goal is to be a police officer. 

If the boycotters were to have their way, they’d both lose their jobs. Leah and I do our bit to make sure that never happens. We split a Mediterranean sandwich (roasted eggplant and hardboiled egg topped with tomato, pickle and tahini), a blueberry peach crumble, and a potato bureka. Their cheese bureka is our favourite, but we’re not its only fans, so they’re sold out. Plus, of course I get coffee.

It’s all yummy.

We cross the street to John & Danielle’s No Frills to pick up Sabra hummus. We’re tempted by Roasted Pine Nuts hummus, but go for the Classic because it comes in a larger size.

The Bay at Yorkdale Mall is our next stop. You probably know from history class that the Hudson Bay Company is Canadian, not Israeli. But the boycotters hate the Bay for carrying Israeli products, especially SodaStream and Ahava cosmetics. Even worse, from the boycotters’ perspective, the Bay has vowed to never bow to political pressure to stop stocking Israeli goods.

In Yorkdale, I stop to get my photo taken with Scarlett Johansson (actually with a big photo of her as Black Widow). Johansson took flack for appearing in an add for SodaStream and stepped down as the ambassador for the British charity Oxfam, which is a boycott supporter.

We also stop at ECCO, not for any Israeli connection but because they had a great sale on a pair of sandals Leah’s had her eye on. But we do eventually get to the Bay.

Leah's new sandals

SodaStream sells a machine for making soda pop at home. The bottles of syrup tend toward the exotic: kombucha, cherry pomegranate, orange dandelion. But there’s also root beer and even cola.

A friend with a SodaStream at home confesses to using Kool-Aid drops or other “flavoured water enhancers.” Her kids love fizzy fruit drinks and most especially creating their own mixtures. They’re floating on bottles of carbonated punch.

We don’t buy a SodaStream; an infinite supply of pop at home strikes me as dangerous to my waist line.

We head for Cosmetics to check out Ahava skin care products. For myself, I don’t go in for much skin care. But Leah’s delighted to have a purifying mud face mask, with Dead Sea minerals and mud. I suggest we need a photo of her wearing it. “No, that’s okay,” she says.

The following day we hit Café Landwer for lunch. Landwer Coffee was started in Berlin in 1919 by Moshe Landwer. In 1933 when the Nazis came to power, the family moved its business to Tel Aviv where it opened the country’s first coffee roaster company and a café. In the 1980s the Federman family acquired the business and in 2004 started Café Landwer – which quickly became a popular chain of restaurants.

Chen, the manager of the Café Landwer on Avenue Road in Toronto, tells me the first Landwer in Toronto opened in 2014 in the Israeli neighbourhood at Bathurst and Rutherford, just north of the city. The Avenue Road Landwer opened in February 2020. “Just in time for Covid,” Chen says.

Brian & Chen {The Ch is pronounced as in Chanukah, challah and Loch Lomand

The restaurant has brunch and dinner menus, both gravitating toward a Mediterranean vibe. So you can get your standard two eggs for breakfast, but they come with sides such as a chopped cucumber and tomato salad, hummus, avocado, and labneh Greek yogurt, with your choice of white or whole grain bread or pita.

Plant-based options are also prominent. The dinner menu includes both chicken shawarma & couscous and plant-based shawarma & hot focaccia.

Landwer’s is licensed and is a comfortable place to come just for a glass of wine or a cocktail, whether indoors or out on the patio. Plus, Landwer’s still roasts its own coffee from its own beans, and Chen claims, “Makes the best coffee in Toronto.” 

I’m no expert, but my cappuccino was wonderfully smooth.    

For lunch we went for grilled sandwiches on flat bread: a Jerusalem sandwich (mozzarella, hardboiled egg, matbucha and za’atar) and a Feta and Kalamata olives sandwich (with mozzarella and za’atar-spiced onions), both served with a pesto mayo dip.

I could get used to this.

Our final stop is the liquor store, as Israeli wines have long been a target of the boycotters. Our local branch on Wilson and Dufferin has a broad selection of Israeli wines.

I’m tempted by a Cabernet sauvignon made by Teperberg, as this family winery has been operating in Israel for 150 years. It opened in Jerusalem in 1870 and is now headquartered by Tsor’a in the Judean hills.

But it’s a hot August day, so my eye strays to the whites. I see Tel Qasser from Notofa made with Roussanne grapes, but at $82 a bottle, decide to leave it for a special occasion and instead go for a Yardren Chardonnay from Golan Heights Winery. Always a safe bet.  

We could expand our buy-cott tour. The boycotters don’t like Puma running shoes – apparently, they dislike the Israeli soccer team Puma sponsors. They also dislike Pillsbury – I guess because the Dough Boy is too cute, and Hewlett Packard – probably because the boycotters haven’t caught on that virtually all computers and smart phones are stuffed with Israeli tech.

Strangely, they’re not boycotting Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine, even though Israel and Pfizer are cooperating closely to measure the vaccine’s effectiveness. But then the boycott movement is most notable for its hypocrisy. Omar Barghouti who founded the movement obtained both his degrees from universities in “apartheid” Israel.


Brian Henry is a writer, editor, creative writing instructor, and publisher of the Quick Brown Fox blog. He’s written opinion pieces for the National Post and The Toronto Star. He was also a regular contributor to the (now defunct) Jewish Tribune and the Engage and Harry’s Place websites in the UK. This piece was previously published on TheJ.ca, the Canadian Jewish community's online journal of news and opinion.