7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #730: Featuring Maya Ish-Shalom

h1 February 14th, 2021 by jules

Author Leda Schubert shares a story based on her own family in Nathan’s Song (Dial, February 2021), illustrated by Maya Ish-Shalom — a picture book that is a valentine to family (and keeping family stories alive). I’ve got some spreads today from this spirited, big-hearted true tale.

“From the time Nathan was a little boy in Russia, he loved to sing,” the book opens. One day, Nathan hears an opera singer and knows that he wants to sing like him, his Papa telling him that, in order to do so, he must study in Italy. The family saves, and on Nathan’s sixteenth birthday they tearily send him on his way. At the waterfront of the Black Sea, however, the port is crowded and filled with ships, and Nathan accidentally boards one heading to New York. Promising to “sing for [his] supper,” he serenades everyone on board — passengers at fancy dinners, at dances, and in steerage.

After accepting his payment, he lands in New York and makes a life for himself. While selling hats, he sings. A man approaches him one day to ask if he may teach Nathan. And Nathan, post-training, ends up singing “his beloved operas in restaurants, and at weddings, and even in small theaters. Then, on one exciting night, he joined performers on a big Broadway stage.”

Nathan also falls in love with Sonia, whom he marries. Finally, too, he can afford to send for his family back home and finds his parents at crowded, bustling Ellis Island by — what else? — raising his voice in song and calling them to him.

Leda’s closing author’s note reveals that Nathan and Sonia are her grandparents:

This story was inspired by my grandfather, who was born during the final decade of the nineteenth century in what was Bessarabia, a part of Russia. Life for Jews in Russia was extremely challenging. Most were forced to live in a restricted area known as “The Pale,” were rarely allowed to own land, and were subject to frequent pogroms (massacres) and other anti-Semitic actions. They could only work in limited professions. For these and other reasons, millions of Jews left Russia before World War I. Among them were my grandparents and their families.

In this same note, Leda also recalls hearing him sing at family gatherings. “I will never forget his beautiful voice.”

Israeli illustrator Maya Ish-Shalom, who works in a gently stylized contemporary folk-art style, brings readers a crisp, brightly colored palette, filled with vivid yellows, warm and deep greens, bright oranges, and rich blues. Her palette adds to the joy flowing through this story that pays tribute to a Jewish immigrant who saw his dreams come true and managed to reunite with the family he loved. Here are some spreads so that you can see for yourself ….


“One day a famous opera singer gave a concert in the next village.
Nathan and his family were there. ‘I did not know anything
could be so beautiful,’ said Nathan. ‘I want to sing like that.'”

(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“The land became a distant speck and a sailor said, ‘NEXT STOP, NEW YORK!’
‘New York?’ Nathan cried. ‘But my ticket is for Italy!'”

(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)



(Two images above: Click either image to see spread its entirety)


“Nathan knew. He sang, and his powerful voice rose over the crowds.
He sang with all the love he had. Mama and Papa heard and came running.”

(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


(Click cover to enlarge)


NATHAN’S SONG. Text copyright © 2021 by Leda Schubert. Illustrations © 2021 by Maya Ish-Shalom and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Dial Books for Young Readers, New York.

* * * Jules’s Kicks * * *

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

1) Walks.

2) This news:



3) The Sound of Metal. I used to work at a school for the deaf and as an interpreter with the Deaf community in East Tennessee, and this movie really gets it. And Riz Ahmed’s performance is exceptionally good.

4) First Cow. And the way Cookie talks to the cow as he milks it.

5) Uri Shulevitz’s Chance. Hard to read, but so very good.



6) Bittersweet brownie shortbread.

7) Elise Gravel’s short comic about “The Cat God.” Be sure to click through all four images:



What are YOUR kicks this week?

7 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #730: Featuring Maya Ish-Shalom”

  1. Hi Imps! Happy weekend!

    Hi Maya! What a story, and what a way to honor your grandparents.
    Music means a lot to me. Singing means a lot to me.

    Jules: Oh my goodness, that CAT. Insert laughing cat emoji here!! I saw The Sound of Metal, too! So glad it had captions.

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Sounding boards
    2) Doing all the things
    3) A completed to-do list
    4) Opportunities
    5) Clarity
    6) Feedback
    7) Support

  2. What a wonderful story about family. Such a tribute, Maya.
    Jules, Cat cracked me up and I reserved CHANCE at the library. The bittersweet chocolate shortbread sounds divine. We go to an Italian bakery and they have something similar.
    LW, Hooray for a completed to-do list. Celebrate!
    My kicks:
    1. Snowfall and winter wonderland ( albeit dangerous, trees down and ice.)
    2. Reading SPY GIRL by Bridget Zinn ( who passed away in 2011). Her husband got it published posthumously. I can hear her voice as I read.
    3. Buster snuggles.
    4. Birds on the deck.
    5. Writing with friends on Zoom.
    6. Planning
    7. Chuck made pizza.
    Have a great week.

  3. Thanks so much for featuring “Nathan’s Song,” Jules! I, too, am in love with Maya Ish-Shalom’s wonderful art, and this is her first picture book! I lucked out.

  4. Love this story and the colorful, joyful illustrations. This one really hits me, in a good way, as my dad sang all his life, and our neighbor was an opera voice coach who would have him over to sing for her dinner parties. Love hearing and reading about family stories like this one.

    Jules – That Harriet Tubman news is terrific! Yay for walks, funny cat cartoons and bittersweet brownie shortbread.

    Little Willow – Doing all the things is pretty much how I imagine you all the time. Clarity, feedback and support are awesome, and so is a completed to-do list.

    Jone – the snow has been so fun! We were overdue. Spy Girl is going on my list. Buster snuggles and pizza are perfect in this snowy weather.

    My kicks this week:
    1) Got my 2nd dose of the vaccine. And even better – Oregon has started giving vaccinations to people in prisons and local jails.
    2) The last installment of Jenny Han’s To All The Boys series- Always and Forever, Lara Jean, on Netflix. Sweet confection to watch on a snowy night.
    3) A friend recommended Lupin (also Netflix) and it was perfect for a snow day binge. So so good – and best watched in the original French with subtitles.
    4) Doing a The Thin Man re-watch for Valentine’s Day. Myrna Loy will always be life goals for me.
    5) Next up will be Never Say Goodbye with Errol Flynn and Eleanor Powell. I’ve never seen it before, but the Twitter account Dancer on Film shared a clip and its definitely in the vein of the married couple banter of Myrna Loy and William Powell in The Thin Man series. Goals, as the kids say.
    6) Walking Daisy in the snow. She’s not crazy about cold weather, but she loves her walks.
    7) A person I follow on IG did a fun thing for their birthday – asking everyone to comment with a song that makes them dance, think, sing or cry so they could make a birthday playlist. I’m going through and looking up so much new music – its great!
    7.5) Cleaning house today so I can then enjoy my reward of homemade cinnamon rolls and prosecco for a late brunch/early dinner in honor of Valentine’s Day.

    Have a wonderful week everyone!

  5. Jone: Enjoy the book, the creatures, and the pizza! Thanks! I’m hoping to take a day off tomorrow. We’ll see.

    Leda: Hi Leda! I meant to include your name in my earlier note to Maya. What a lovely tribute to your grandparents. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Rachel: Thank you! I certainly try. 🙂 Enjoy the rewatch of The Thin Man! That playlist sounds very cool. Hi Daisy!

  6. PS. We watched The White Tiger. Anyone else?

  7. Little Willow, I hope you get that day off and enjoy it!

    Jone: The White Tiger is on our list. Did you enjoy it? Enjoy the snow!

    Hi, Leda!

    Rachel, I didn’t know that about your father. That is most excellent. … Congrats on the vaccine, and I like that first kick in general. I hope to watch Lupin. Enjoy your Valentine’s Day snacks and wine. Hugs to Daisy.

    Have a good week, you all!

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