Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 24, 2019


Anna Olswanger is the author of Shlemiel Crooks (Junebug Books, 2005), a Yiddish-inflected Passover story, named a Sydney Taylor Honor Book and PJ Library Book, plus  author of the book GREENHORN. After reading GREENHORN and being impressed with the story, I asked Anna if we could do a book giveaway to help commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is this Sunday January 27th. My hope is you will be able to get a flavor for this heartwarming short story and want to share it with others. It is available on Amazon

Anna has agreed to share a book with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping get the word out for Anna and her book!


In Anna Olswanger’s Greenhorn, a young Holocaust survivor arrives at a New York yeshiva in 1946 where he will study and live. His only possession is a small box that he never lets out of his sight. Daniel, the young survivor, rarely talks, but the narrator, a stutterer who bears the taunts of the other boys, comes to consider Daniel his friend. The mystery of what’s in the box propels this short work, but it’s in the complex relationships of the school boys that the human story is revealed. In the end, Aaron, the stutterer, finds his voice and a friend in Daniel, and their bond offers hope for a future life of dreams realized, one in which Daniel is able to let go of his box. Greenhorn is a powerful story that gives human dimension to the Holocaust. It poignantly underscores our flawed humanity and speaks to the healing value of friendship. Families will want to read Greenhorn together.


In 2005, the year I became a literary agent, an independent press published my first children’s book, Shlemiel Crooks. Seven years later in 2012, the same press published Greenhorn.

As an agent, I attract a fair number of queries about Holocaust-related books because of my interest in Judaica. I rarely ask to see these manuscripts, and I’ve never taken on the authors as clients. I know I can’t sell their work. Not many editors, especially of children’s books, want to buy books about Jewish suffering. So why was my second book Holocaust-related?

I had originally self-published Greenhorn as a miniature book for collectors. A few months after I sent it to the publisher of my first book as a holiday gift, she called to say she wanted to publish it.

“Why?” I asked her. She said it was a provocative little book (this is the publisher who took the “N” word out of Huckleberry Finn, so she was no stranger to being provocative), and the book’s image of a tin box and its contents haunted her. That made me think about why I wanted to tell the story.

I first heard it on a tour bus in Israel in the mid-1980s. I had traveled there on a group trip with my synagogue, and as we approached Jerusalem, the rabbi told us about a little boy who had lost his parents in the Holocaust, who wouldn’t speak when he came to live at the Brooklyn yeshiva where the rabbi was in the sixth grade, and who wouldn’t let a tin box out of his sight. The story about the little boy stayed with me for years.

My rabbi, a witness to the story, was preoccupied with leading his large congregation. He wouldn’t write the story. And I had no idea where the little boy was 40 years later, so I couldn’t ask him to write the story. Was it my responsibility? I didn’t think so. How could a childless woman, born in America after the Holocaust, whose ancestors had left Eastern Europe in the 1890s, tell the story of a little boy who couldn’t let a tin box out of his sight? But I knew the story was important and that I had to do it.

And as I began to write the story of Greenhorn, I also began to discover what I was writing about. Because when I really listened to this story, I heard in it something deeper than suffering, something deeper than loss. The little boy, who wouldn’t speak when he came to America, who wouldn’t let the tin box out of his sight, made a friend. Later, he agreed to live with his friend’s family. And then he let go of his box. The little boy moved on. The story had hope.

And something happened to me in the years that I was writing and revising the story: I moved on. I went from being a woman saddened by not having her own family to being a woman immersed in the joy of children’s books as an author and literary agent—and in my middle age, a woman who married for the first time. I have a husband now, the start of my own family. So part of the story is mine now, too. The part that is hope. It may be tough to sell a children’s book about the Holocaust, but it’s even tougher not to have hope.

An earlier version of this essay appeared in Publishers Weekly.

The film Greenhorn was named a 2015 Audience Award Winner for Best Short Film Drama at the Morris and Mollye Fogelman International Jewish Film Festival at the Memphis Jewish Community Center. It subsequently aired on public television in Memphis and Kentucky, and was part of the Festival Internacional De Cine Judio en Mexico. In 2016 Greenhorn screened at the L.A. International Children’s Film Festival at WonderCon. For more information about screening the film, contact TMW Media.


Anna taught business writing for twelve years at the Johns Hopkins Center for Training and Education, and writing for physicians for five years at Stony Brook University Hospital. She continues to give writing workshops for corporations and universities. Anna lives in the metro New York City area with her husband. Her website is

Beside being a published author, Anna Olswanger has been a literary agent since 2005. She started her career at Liza Dawson Associates in Manhattan, and in 2014 launched her own literary agency, Olswanger Literary LLC, where she represents picture books (author-illustrators only), middle grade fiction and adult nonfiction. She is a member of the AAR, Association of Authors’ Representatives.

Anna has sold to major publishers, including Bloomsbury, Chronicle, HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster.

Anna enjoys discovering new authors and illustrators, and is looking for “voice,” the sound and rhythm of an author that is their alone. Her clients’ books have won the Newbery Honor, Asian Pacific American Award for Literature Honor, Flora Stieglitz Strauss Award for Nonfiction, Orbis Pictus Honor, PEN/Steven Kroll Award for Picture Book Writing, Parents Choice Gold Award, Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books, Sibert Award Honor, Ezra Jack Keats Book Award Honor, Sydney Taylor Silver Medal, Boston Globe Horn Book Nonfiction Honor, International Bologna/Ragazzi Nonfiction Honor, CCBC Choices, and been Junior Library Guild Selections and on The New York Times Bestseller list. You can view all her clients’ books on Pinterest.

Thank you Anna for sharing your middle grade book and journey with us. Miriam did a wonderful job with the illustrations. A lasting book for sure.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. This looks great! I’m putting it on my list.😊


  2. This sounds beautiful and so intriguing. Thanks for sharing, ladies, especially the book’s journey. I can’t wait to read it. And the illustrations are fantastic


  3. Looks wonderful!

    Sent from my iPad Joan Leotta Author, Story performer



  4. Thank you for writing a book about hope. In recent years I am coming to write and speak out to others what is feels like to be of Jewish heritage in this country, even when one doesn’t look stand out by looks, language, or religious affiliation really. I lived so many places that I have no accent, was fully assimilated as a child, especially when I was 7 and we moved to Dallas, except for eating habits to some extent. No peanut butter in my house made me feel less than American [turned out later I was allergic to it!]. My father came over at age 11 in 1922. Maternal grandparents around the same time, and my mother born in NY. I steeped myself in holocaust books growing up, till I could no longer read them for years. There are so many stories as important both before and since then. I am again interested in the stories of individuals, especially those offering hope for survival and more… for us all.


  5. I have yet to read this book, but the trailer moved me to tears, and so I will read it soon. Thank you for telling this story!


  6. This is a fantastic book, and it’s based on a true (and beautiful) story.


  7. Looks like a beautiful book!


  8. The illustrations alone evoke such emotion, I’m sure the words make it even stronger. Look forward to reading this.


  9. Anna, I have to say that I have fifth and sixth grade students who are very interested in reading of the suffering of the holocaust and the STRENGTH that children found to pull through it and cope with the fear, sorrow, and loss. You have another deep story told here too; the silenced child, the one who does not, or cannot speak, or simply is not listened to. There are more children who experience this than we want to believe there are. This sounds like an important contribution to the development of compassion. I’m glad you wrote it and that it has been published! Thank you for your interview!


  10. This should be in libraries everywhere. Thank you, Anna, and Kathy.


  11. I tweeted, pinned on Pinterest, commented, and posted on Linkedin and Facebook. Anna, your catharsis through the writing of GREENHORN touched me deeply.


  12. I’m putting this on my list. Thank you for sharing about it!


  13. I want to know what’s in the box!


  14. I look forward to reading Greenhorn, especially because the author, Anna Olswanger, relates she discovered the real story while writing and revising Greenhorn. The real story is that although loss and suffering are real, hope is an actual possibility. And writing or drawing about a huge, unthinkable loss gives one something to do, at least, as one moves forward out of sadness.


  15. I’m deeply moved by this story. I’m so glad you had the courage to write what you didn’t think belonged to you. These are stories always worth telling, to remind people of a dark past, and a bright future.


  16. What a worthwhile story to share. We need to learn from the past to inform a kinder, brighter future. Thank you for telling the story.


  17. I have some nephews who would really enjoy this book. Very inspiring!


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