Martha Seif Simpson Author Biography

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Home > Children's Authors > Martha Seif Simpson

Martha Seif Simpson

Photo of Martha Seif Simpson

Martha Seif Simpson is an author and children’s librarian. Her first children’s book, What NOT to Give Your Mom on Mother's Day, was released in 2013. Ms. Simpson’s first book with Wisdom Tales is The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin: A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah. The story is a charming account of a toyshop owner who witnesses a bit of a miracle in his store and through it comes to appreciate the true meaning of Hanukkah. It is illustrated by award-winning author and illustrator Durga Yael Bernhard.

In addition to her books written for children, Martha has also produced such books as Bringing Classes into the Public Library: A Handbook for Librarians (along with Lucretia I. Duwel) and Summer Reading Clubs: Complete Plans for 50 Theme-Based Library Programs. As someone who has worked as a librarian for over twenty years, Martha shares her experience with others in these books and through other professional activities (see her website, linked below, for the section on “Events” for more information).

Here are some details, taken from Martha’s website, on how she got into writing stories for children as well as some other facts about her life:

I remember desperately wanting to learn how to read when I was young, but it took me a while to figure out how to do it. When I was in third grade, I found Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary, and that book turned me into a real reader! I read every Beverly Cleary book I could find and then moved on to other authors. I love children’s books so much that I eventually became a children’s librarian so I could keep reading kids’ books, and then introduce them to boys and girls at the library!

I started writing for fun when I was in eighth grade. I liked thinking up silly stories and inventing goofy character names. And I was always making up my own words to popular songs that I heard on the radio. This turned out to be a useful skill as a children’s librarian, because I have written lots of songs to use in storytimes.

I grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts. My parents owned a small store, Dotty’s Variety (named after my mother) which had a penny candy counter, back when you could actually buy Bazooka bubble gum and red licorice for a penny. My brother and I often helped out at the store during the 18 years that my parents owned it. Perhaps I was thinking of the store when I wrote The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin: A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah….

My husband, John, and I have two boys and two girls. My first picture book, What NOT to Get Your Mom on Mother’s Day is dedicated to my children — Paul, Rose, Nick, and Shayna, who are all grown up now.

For the dedication to her story, The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin, Martha wrote “To my relatives with roots in the Old Country.” The story of her family is in many ways like those of countless Americans whose roots are in other countries but whose ancestors came to the United states as immigrants. Martha’s father, Sam Seif, was born and raised in Poland before World War II. He, like many others, was in a variety of labor camps until the end of the war, but he managed to survive. Most of his family did not survive. Sam Seif was able to be reunited with a sister and two brothers in Poland after the war. The sister and one brother moved to Israel when it first became a country. The other brother came to America with Martha’s father, who remained in contact with his family in Israel until he died in 2010.

Martha Seif Simpson’s grandparents, on her mother’s side, were born in the USSR and came to America before World War I. After Martha’s grandparents emigrated to America from Russia, they met and lived in Dorchester, MA where her grandfather had a grocery store. He had various other jobs before that, including selling from a pushcart. (Observant readers will see a pushcart in The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin!) Martha notes that her own mother undoubtedly learned how to run a small family store from her father — Martha’s grandfather.

Here are some of Martha’s other childhood memories that could relate to her creation of the story in The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin:

My parents kept a kosher house and lit the Sabbath candles every Friday, but they didn't go to shul [Ed: this is the Yiddish word for “synagogue”] much, except on the High Holidays, since they kept the store open from 7 am to 7 pm, 7 days a week with no hired help. It was just them, my brother and me running the store, which they bought when I was 10 years old and my brother (Joel) was 9. We grew up working in that store.…

Readers can easily imagine all of the experiences with customers that Martha must have had over those years and how some of them probably made their way into the story, but adapted to fit the different times and settings!

In addition to writing books for children, Martha Seif Simpson is also an experienced professional librarian. She went to school to learn the profession and then started to work as a librarian.

Here is more from Martha’s website, this time about her work as a librarian:

I started working at the Stratford Library in Stratford, CT in 1993 and have been Head of Children’s Services since 1996. I enjoy introducing children to the books and media in our collection. We also have a lot of fun with our many programs. And, of course we are very proud of our class visits — I even co-authored a book about them, Bringing Classes into the Public Library (co-author Lucretia I. Duwel, McFarland & Company, Inc., 2007).…

I am also very active in the American Library Association (ALA), especially in the division called The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). I have been a member of several ALSC committees.…

From 2005-2009, I was on the ALSC Library Service to Special Population Children and their Caregivers Committee. During my time as committee chair, we were asked by Candlewick Press to develop a grant in honor of Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo and the themes represented in her books.… I was proud to be part of this wonderful group of dedicated librarians who could really help make a difference in the lives of young people and their families.

Many children’s librarians dream of being on the Newbery Medal Committee, the select group of 15 people who choose the best children’s book of the year. I served on that esteemed committee in 2003-2004. Serving on the Newbery Committee is not a job one takes lightly. It is serious work. We read and considered hundreds of books, debating their merits until we finally determined the winner and honor books at the 2004 ALA Midwinter Conference.…

I am also proud to say that I have won ALA awards for some of my initiatives at the Stratford Library. One was the Econo-Clad Literature program Award in 1999 for StoryCraft, a program for children in grades 2-4 that combined storytelling, activities, crafts, and music. Fellow librarian Lynne Perrigo and I wrote a book about some of our ideas (StoryCraft: 50 Theme-Based Programs Combining Storytelling, Activities and Crafts for Children in Grades 1-3, McFarland & Company, Inc., 2001).

The full version of the quote above can be found on Martha’s website under the “Library Life” tab.

Despite her busy life as a writer and librarian, Martha still finds time for other interests, too. She says, “My husband and I are big fans of the UConn Women’s Basketball team and the Connecticut Sun and we go to a lot of games every year. I also make costume jewelry as a hobby, and sell it online” (see the link below).

Author Appearances & Events

Martha Seif Simpson maintains a page on her website for “Coming Events.” Here are some coming events at which she will be appearing (details and updates are on her website):

  • On Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 3:30pm: In the Atrium of the Norwich Free Academy, 305 Broadway Norwich, CT, Martha will be a guest author at the Norwich Free Academy Book Expo, which is held in conjunction with Norwich Author’s Day. Martha will be promoting The Dreidel That Wouldn't Spin: A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah.
  • On Tuesday, October 21, 2014: Martha will be at the NELA (New England Library Association) Annual Conference in Boxborough, MA. Co-author Lucretia Duwel and Martha will be presenting a program based on their book, Bringing Classes Into the Public Library, as part of a panel on school and public library cooperation.
  • On Sunday December 7, 2014, from 10 am to 4 pm: Martha will have a table at the Arts & Crafts Fair held at the JCC of Greater New Haven, 360 Amity Road in Woodbridge, CT. At 11:30 am, she will do a book presentation and discussion. There will be coloring sheets and other goodies. She will also be selling and signing her book, The Dreidel That Wouldn't Spin: A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah. She suggests bringing the kids to this great family event.

Author Extras & Links

  • Martha Seif Simpson has her own website, which includes more biographical details, a list of all her publications along with links, a listing of coming and past events in which Martha participates, and more. To visit her page, click here.
Pages 20-11 from the book “Never Say a Mean Word Again”, written by Jacqueline Jules and illustrated by Durga Yael Bernhard

A sample of a page written by Martha Seif Simpson and illustrated by Durga Yael
Bernhard for the book The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin: A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah

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