Posted by: Kathy Temean | February 26, 2023

Book Giveaway: The Tower of Life by Chana Stiefel

Today we have Chana Stiefel and the award winning book she wrote, THE TOWER OF LIFE. Susan Gal created the the beautiful illustrations that brought her story to life. Scholastic recognized a winner and published the book. Chana has agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

All you have to do to get in the running is 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 other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Chana and Susan.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


There once was a girl named Yaffa. She loved her family, her home, and her beautiful Polish town that brimmed with light and laughter. She also loved helping her Grandma Alte in her photography studio. There, shopkeepers, brides, babies, and bar mitzvah boys posed while Grandma Alte captured their most joyous moments on film. And before the Jewish New Year, they sent their precious photographs to relatives overseas with wishes for good health and happiness.

But one dark day, Nazi soldiers invaded the town. Nearly 3,500 Jewish souls ― including family, friends, and neighbors of Yaffa ― were erased.

This is the stunning true story of how Yaffa made it her life’s mission to recover thousands of her town’s photographs from around the world. Using these photos, she built her amazing TOWER OF FACES, a permanent exhibit in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, to restore the soaring spirit of Eishyshok.

★ “…(When) President Jimmy Carter reached out to Yaffa (Eliach) and asked her to help with a memorial being built for the victims of the Holocaust… she decided to build (it) not on bricks, but on photographs that were saved from Eishyshok. Traveling around the world, she found 6,000 photographs to display on what would later be called the Tower of Life. Not a memorial of the dead, but of the life that came from her beloved hometown. There are many picture books about the Holocaust, but this one stands out with Gal’s beautiful watercolor pictures and the true account of one woman’s goal that her community never be forgotten. A beautiful tribute…Highly recommended.” ― School Library Journal, starred review


For this post, author Chana Stiefel and illustrator Susan Gal share their inspiration and a behind-the-scenes look at their picture book The Tower of Life: How Yaffa Eliach Rebuilt Her Town in Stories and Photographs (Scholastic), winner of the 2023 Sydney Taylor Book Award and a Robert F. Sibert Honor.

Chana, what inspired you to write The Tower of Life?

CS: I first learned about Yaffa Eliach when I read her obituary in the New York Times in 2016. I was amazed by her strength and resilience in the face of unbearable tragedy. Because Holocaust survivors like Yaffa are passing away, I felt a strong responsibility to share her story with children. And because Yaffa’s story is so visual, I knew it had to be a picture book.

Susan, what made you decide to illustrate this book? How did you connect with the story?

SG: When I read Chana’s manuscript I was in awe of Yaffa’s story. Included with the manuscript were copies of Yaffa’s treasured photos. The image of young Yaffa making faces among her grandmother’s chickens touched my heart. I felt an immediate connection to her innocence and humanity. Chana’s writing was wonderfully rich and vivid—an illustrator’s dream! I couldn’t wait to get started and learn more about Yaffa and her extraordinary life.

What was the research process like? What elements of the research stand out?

CS: After reading several articles about Yaffa Eliach, I read her monumental book, There Once Was a World: a 900-Year Chronicle of the Shtetl of Eishyshok. It documents every aspect of her town, including its culture, businesses, families, and history. Most of all, it’s about the people of Eishyshok and how their family roots, which went back hundreds of years, were cut off in 1941 when the Nazis rounded up the Jews and in just two days murdered nearly all 3,500 men, women, and children.

I also visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, to see the Tower of Faces. Walking through the exhibit took my breath away. Picture being surrounded by more than 1,000 photos of the people of Eishyshok soaring three stories high. Yaffa said that visitors from all backgrounds see themselves in these photos. When you think of pictures of the Holocaust, you usually think of emaciated prisoners in horrendous conditions. But Yaffa’s photos restore humanity to the victims. You see the Jewish people of her town before the war—brides and grooms, families laughing together, musicians, children playing, farmers, teachers—people like you and me. Walking across the bridge through the exhibit, thinking about what happened to these beautiful human beings, changes you. In writing this book, I wanted to convey Yaffa’s message of our shared humanity with children.

SG: Like Chana, I started with reading There Once Was a World to gain an understanding of the history of Eishyshok and its people. I gathered as many photos as I could from the online archives from the US Holocaust Museum. The archives hold many images of Eishyskians and scenes of life in their shtetl. It was very important to me to correctly capture how people dressed, etc., so that the reader would feel a connection to that time and place. Most importantly, I wanted to honor Yaffa’s desire that all people would see themselves in the people of Eishyshok.

What challenges did you face? How did you address that challenge?

CS: The major challenge was how to write about the Holocaust, one of the darkest periods of human history, for children. It’s impossible to fathom the murder of 6 million people. And the research is vast. I knew I wanted to focus on one survivor—Yaffa Eliach—and her inspirational messages of hope and resilience. Focusing on Yaffa’s journey made the storytelling more manageable.

SG: My biggest challenge was working with the images of Nazi soldiers and weaponry of WWII. My initial searches revealed not just WWII imagery but images of modern-day Nazis. I was not prepared for the depth of Neo-Nazism that continues to exist in our country and abroad. I became even more determined to put everything I had into bringing Chana’s words and Yaffa’s story to life. Holocaust education and speaking out against all forms of hatred is now more important than ever.

What’s your favorite spread?

SG: That’s like asking to choose a favorite child! I struggled with creating the spread of Yaffa and her brother Yitzchak hiding from the Nazis. I agonized about how to portray their fear without frightening the reader. When I realized that I could communicate that anxiety by showing the fear in Yitzchak’s eyes I felt that it was a good solution.

CS: It’s truly too hard for me to choose as well. I will say that the spread in which Susan overlays the postcards with the people of the town, bringing them back to life, is sheer genius. Susan deserves all of the accolades for her stunning illustrations.

What do you hope children gain from reading The Tower of Life?

CS: When I began working on this book, I never could have imagined how relevant its messages would be. Antisemitism is at an all-time high since the Anti-Defamation League began collecting data in 1979. While Jews make up 2% of the US population, they are the victims of nearly 60% of religious hate crimes. In 2021, the ADL counted 2,717 antisemitic incidents, the highest on record. Each of those incidents impacts a human being, a family, a community. How can we turn this horrific tide of baseless hatred? One way is by guiding children to experience empathy and appreciate the many ways in which we are all more alike than different. We can hopefully accomplish this through finding connections in our storytelling. I hope that when reading The Tower of Life, children will see themselves in the story and recognize that we are one people.

What do the Sydney Taylor Book Award and Sibert Honor mean to you?

SG: It is truly an honor to be recognized with these awards. Most importantly I hope that it will provide more opportunities for young readers to learn about Yaffa and her remarkable life and triumphs.

CS: Knowing that Yaffa’s story is making its way into the hands and hearts of children gives me hope for the future. I’m so grateful.


Chana Stiefel is the award-winning author of more than 30 humorous and heartfelt books for children. Her nonfiction books include THE TOWER OF LIFE, the true story of Holocaust survivor and historian Yaffa Eliach (winner of the 2023 Sydney Taylor Book Award, a Robert F. Sibert Honor, and a Junior Library Guild Gold Medal Selection); LET LIBERTY RISE: How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statue of Liberty (a Bank Street Best Book of the Year), and ANIMAL ZOMBIES & OTHER REAL-LIFE MONSTERS (a Top 10 YALSA Quick Pick). Chana’s funny fictional picture books include BRAVO, AVOCADO (coming 3-28-23 from HarperCollins), MENDEL’S HANUKKAH MESS UP,  MY NAME IS WAKAWAKALOCH, and DADDY DEPOT.

She loves to visit schools and libraries to share her passion for reading and writing with children. She earned a Master’s degree in Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting from New York University. Chana is represented by Miranda Paul at Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Follow her @chanastiefel on FBTwitter, and Instagram. To hear Chana pronounce her name, click here. Find out more about Chana at


After completing her BFA at Art Center College of Design, Susan Gal began her illustration career as a poster and calendar artist. The call of animation beckoned her to Florida where she became an “actor with a pencil” for Disney Animation. But the lure of the silver screen was not to last. Returning to her native California, Susan continues to create fun and whimsical illustrations while attempting to live a caffeine and nuclear-free life in Berkeley.

Chana and Susan, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. The book is beautifully-written and illustrated and is a wealth of information that will be new to readers of all ages. I had no idea of the life Yaffa lived how later in life she became a professor of history in the U.S. I have not been able to visit the the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Now, I want to learn more and see the tower that President Jimmy Carter put into motion by requesting the architects to build something to show off Yaffa and her extraordinary efforts over many years of travel and research that resulted in the form of a pictorial tower in U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. What a fitting tribute. Rather than focusing on peoples deaths, she called this memorial feature the “Tower of Life.” Thank you for shining a light on Yaffa and the people we lost during WWII. Thsi book is very deserving of the awards you have won.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. A beautiful and important book that is so deserving of the recognition its received. Congrats to Chana and Susan!


  2. I would be honored to own this book, to win this book.


  3. Congratulations on your book! It’s an important story and looks like a beautiful book. Can’t wait to read it

    I enjoy getting the blog each day


  4. I read this book and was deeply touched by the story. Thanks, Chana and Susan, and congratulations on the well-deserved awards.


  5. I am not surprised that this is a new important historical person to me and I can’t wait to learn more about her. I’m an email subscriber and shared on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and tumblr.


  6. This looks like a great story!


  7. As a Jewish woman who has never been more concerned about antisemitism, I’m glad Chana and Susan’s book has received the attention it deserves. It needs to be shared far and wide so that children in future generations truly never forget.
    If I win a copy, I will donate it to the school where I used to teach in Chicago. I’m a subscriber and will share this post on Twitter.


  8. Thank you both for this moving and essential book. May it reach the hearts and minds and souls who need it most.


  9. I follow your blog and shared on Pinterest, FB, and Twitter. I’ve heard about this book but this review and background has really piqued my interest. Thank you.


  10. I’ve read a lot about this book and can’t wait to read it myself. I have it on hold at my library so I should have my hands on it soon. I love hearing about a book’s journey so thanks for having Chana and Susan on your blog!


  11. Incredible story and so important to tell.


  12. This book is so moving and impactful; beautifully written and illustrated. I was so happy to hear it won the Sydney Taylor Award and a Sibert Honor. Congratulations to both and thank you for sharing some background about the making of The Tower of Life. (I am a blog subscriber and I retweeted).


  13. Such a gorgeous, important book!


  14. Such a great book! Instead of the horror of the time this book shows how one girl, Yaffa was able to maintain her town’s heritage through pictures. As a grownup she had an exhibit in the Holocaust museum in Wahington DC.


  15. A beautiful, heart-tugging story. A very important book for all kids to read. It’s truly a masterpiece. Congrats on your awards and for this incredible book out in the world!


  16. What an accomplishment! This book is gorgeous and so so important! Congratulations, Chana and Susan!

    I follow by email and tweeted this post. 🙂


  17. […] might be too late to be considered for the giveaway (I don’t know for sure), but this children’s book about the Holocaust is so noteworthy that I have to share this […]


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