H Is For Haiku (2018) is a children's picture book devoted to the magic of haiku — a Japanese short-form poetry that's rich in both imagery and feeling.
Sydell Rosenberg, the book's author, was a New York teacher and writer for more than three decades and a charter member of the Haiku Society of America.
Her daughter, Amy Losak, has followed in her mother's footsteps by writing haiku, senryu, limericks, and longer poems. In 2021, Amy won first place in the Haiku Society of America’s annual Gerald Brady Memorial senryu contest out of a pool of more than 700 entries.
Amy's publishing journey started following her mother's death in 1996, when she set out to compile Sydell's children's poems in a picture book format, resulting in H Is For Haiku. She has also published her mother's work in two other books: Poised Across the Sky (2020) and Wing Strokes Haiku (2022).
Amy has since become a proud member of The Book Meshuggenahs, a group of Jewish women authors passionate about children's books, working to serve as a resource for children, families, and communities.
In this special Q&A, Amy shares her journey of working on H Is For Haiku, thus making her mother's dream of publishing a children's book come true.
1. What makes this book special for you?
H Is For Haiku represents the culmination of a decades-long dream my late mother, Sydell Rosenberg, had: to publish a haiku ABC picture book. She was a NY teacher and poet. When she died abruptly in 1996, that cherished dream died with her.
Decades later, I decided to revive that dream, or at least try to. Over time, her dream became mine. Finally, in 2018, it became a reality, thanks to Penny Candy Books, a marvelous small publisher of picture books and other children's books.
2. Tell us about the journey of getting this book published.
This journey was anything but linear. It was slow-going, and I had setbacks, including my own innate procrastination and fear. I almost gave up many times. I was afraid both of failure and success.
In addition, my lasting grief over Mom’s shocking death made it difficult for me to sort through her work. It was a painful process. It still is sometimes. I continue to miss her deeply.
But as I myself got older, I realized that time was not on my side. So, this journey became something of a race. I had to push through my doubts and pangs of grief to produce a current manuscript from her past manuscripts and other writings.
I also had to learn something about this creative and competitive industry. I researched agents and publishers and different styles of illustration — and more.
Thanks to the amazing support from family, friends, colleagues, as well as the haiku and KidLit communities, I was able finally to get off my “pity pot” and undertake this formidable project.
3. Tell us a bit about haiku and how it helps children.
Haiku poetry tends to be about being in the moment — using all our senses to take in our natural surroundings. It's about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. It’s the shortest form of poetry, but arguably the most expansive.
Haiku can also consist of stories in miniature. They're also bite-sized expressions of imagination — lovely for children to "play" with.
4. How do the illustrations complement the poems?
Sawsan Chalabi’s illustrations are lively and clever, full of emotion. And her lettering further enhances the vivacity of the poems! They're illustrations in their own right.
Author Sydell Rosenberg.
Sydell's daughter, author Amy Losak