How Interfaith Holidays Inspired a New Children’s Book

What’s Your Writing Story? #whatsyourwritingstory

Welcome to What’s Your Writing Story, where Indie Children’s Book Authors present their latest project’s writers journey. Find out the what, where, how, and/or why of the process that brought a children’s book into the world.

Meet Lauren Ranalli, children’s book author and marketing coach for aspiring and self-published authors. I have been following Lauren for several years and am continually impressed by the joy she conveys in her work. 

How Interfaith Holidays Inspired a New Children’s Book

As a young couple, my husband and I sailed through our early holiday seasons together. My family is Jewish and his is Catholic so we decided we would always spend Thanksgiving with my family, Christmas with his, and Chanukah wherever it fell during the calendar. I remember thinking, “Wow, this is so easy!” And it was, for those first few years.

Back in December 2011, we welcomed our first child into the world. Only a few weeks postpartum, we spent that entire holiday season in our small condo with various family members coming in and out for visits. But over the next few years, the concept of holidays changed for us and for the newly-minted grandparents in the family.

The idea of celebrating my son’s birthday, Chanukah, and Christmas in a three-week span became very overwhelming. The stress of upcoming celebrations started creeping in as soon as the leaves began to change in the fall. My two primary concerns were always 1) Is there any way to put a reasonable limit on all the presents? And 2) Will Chanukah feel just as special as Christmas?

This last question is one that struck me only a few days after my son was born. Being a December baby, he received lovely Christmas books from friends and family. On one of my early outings with him, I went on a search for Chanukah books to add a little balance to our bookshelf. I couldn’t find what I wanted in the store, so I checked online, and at our local library. The stories I initially found seemed to all fall on opposing ends of a spectrum. On one side there were stories such as “Elmo Celebrates Chanukah” and on the other side was “The History of Chanukah and the Maccabees”. Neither of these really resonated with me (no offense to Elmo or the Maccabees). I wanted to find a book that was a better reflection of my family traditions and cultural experience. So in my sleep-deprived state, I decided to write it myself. I typed up the story of “The Great Latke Cook Off” in one sitting and sent it to myself as an email. And then I tucked it away for a few years. I was a new mom with a full-time job and I had absolutely no idea where to even look to get a book published. So I waited and we continued to experience the Birthday-Chanukah-Christmas extravaganza every year.

Then back in 2018, I was feeling the need for a creative outlet. My kids were then 6 and 4 and I felt like I might have some capacity to take a stab at putting my book out in the world. So I pulled up that old email, did a lot of Googling, found an incredible local illustrator, and embarked on a 6-month sprint to turn “The Great Latke Cook Off” into a real book that you can have, hold, and enjoy with your family.

Publishing the book helped me focus on what I love about Chanukah- family traditions and food! Together we cook, read, play games, and invite our friends from all backgrounds over for a delicious latke party. It feels very personal and memorable. We’ve found a way to carve out space during this busy time of year. I no longer worry about whether Chanukah will feel special among the other celebrations.

But I still have no idea how to successfully limit presents. Someone else needs to be in charge of figuring that one out!

Lauren Muskovitz Ranalli is a children’s book author, public health professional, and mom to two high-spirited, fiercely lovable children. 

“The Great Latke Cook Off” and her other books are available at

Follow Lauren on Instagram @ lauren.ranalli_author

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