My Name is Hamburger
By Jacqueline Jules
Trudie Hamburger is the only Jewish kid living in the small town of Colburn, Virginia in 1962. Nobody else at her school has a father who speaks with a German accent or a last name that means chopped meat. Trudie doesn't want to be the girl who cries when Daniel Reynolds makes fun of her. Or the girl who hides in the library to avoid singing Christian songs in music class. She doesn't want to be different. But over the course of a few pivotal months, as Trudie confronts her fear and embraces what she loves--including things that make her different--she finally finds a way to say her name with pride.
I loved My Name is Hamburger, a middle grade verse novel published in October 2022 by Kar-Ben Publishing. Jacqueline Jules tells Trudie’s story in lyrical, impactful verse that puts us in Trudie's heart as she navigates a confusing year at her new school and emerges stronger for it.
I had the pleasure of interviewing author Jacqueline Jules about the book and her writing career.
Interview with Jacqueline Jules
Julie: You’ve written a lot of books for young people, many of them about Jewish life and culture. What’s new and different about this book?
Jacqueline: All my other books of Jewish interest are picture books written for younger children. I worked as an elementary school librarian in both public and religious settings. Story time was a big part of my job, and for many years I focused on capturing the attention of young listeners with books for adults to read aloud.
My Name is Hamburger is my first middle grade novel. It is a book for reading alone by students old enough to handle mature topics like self-esteem, bullying, and antisemitism. I am excited to share that My Name is Hamburger is a PJ Our Way Selection and was distributed to families through this program. https://www.pjourway.org/story-central/My-Name-Is-Hamburger
Julie: Though this story is set in the 1960s, the topic and issues seem relevant and timely for young people today. Can you comment on that?
Jacqueline: The main character, Trudie Hamburger, is intimidated by a bully and has misunderstandings with friends. Her family is both a source of comfort and embarrassment. She dreams of winning prizes and being admired. Many childhood emotions are universal in every generation.
Julie: You say the book was inspired by your own childhood. What are some of the parallels between your story and Trudie’s?
Jacqueline: My father was a Jewish German-speaking immigrant who came to the United States after World War II. We lived in a small Virginia town. Growing up, I experienced exclusion as a minority. But like Trudie, I also had friends and a strong relationship with my father. And like Trudie, I loved to sing, and I loved to read.
Julie: I love that the book is written in verse. It captures Trudie’s voice so well. I feel her need to prove herself, her hurt when she is teased or rejected, the conflicting feelings she has about how her religion makes her different. At the same time, the poems move the reader through the story with a compelling plotline. Can you comment on your decision to write in verse?
Jacqueline: Thank you for your kind words about Trudie’s voice in the poetry. My Name is Hamburger was originally written in prose. I went through many drafts and none of them quite worked until I began writing the story as a series of poems. At first, it was just an experiment, but as one poem followed another, the main character emerged to tell her story with a stronger, more authentic voice. I love to play with words. When I write, I arrange and rearrange words like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes I have to turn small, jagged pieces around and around until they fit together. I knew the plot elements of Trudie’s story so I knew what the picture should look like. Finding the words to make that picture clear to the reader was a bigger challenge. Poetry turned out to be the right format because it prompted me to use imagery to express Trudie’s emotions. Each poem focuses on a particular moment and uses metaphor to convey the meaning of that moment.
I never considered writing a novel in verse before My Name is Hamburger. In retrospect, it is surprising because poetry is my first love as a writer. I have well over a hundred poems in literary journals and anthologies. I am the author of three chapbooks and one full-length collection of poems for adults. My poetry collection for children, Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence, was published by Albert Whitman in 2020.
Julie: Tell us about your publisher, Kar-Ben Publishing. Have you published with this press before?
Jacqueline: I have been a Kar-Ben author since 1998 with the publication of Once Upon a Shabbos. I have twenty books with Kar-Ben. They produce lovely titles and I feel lucky to have found them in the early stages of my career when it was easier to submit without an agent. Once I established a relationship with the editors, I was able to submit new manuscripts, which were luckily accepted.
Julie: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers about writing, publishing, or life?
Jacqueline: Publishing is a hard business. Perseverance is the key to success. There have been many times over the years when I felt discouraged, when I had to force myself to hold on to my dreams of a writing career. The following poem, “Tag Your Dreams” is the title poem of my book, Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence. It was written during a low period in my writing career when I worried that I would not sell another book. The poem was a pep talk to myself. Since I wrote this poem, I have sold twenty-five more books. Believe in yourself. Chase your dreams until you’re breathless.
by Jacqueline Jules
with your dreams.
till you’re breathless.
have strong legs,
but so do you.
with your arm out,
Don’t let them get away.
you, Jacqueline, for sharing your inspiring story.
Jacqueline Jules is the award-winning author of over fifty books for young readers including the Zapato Power series, the Sofia Martinez series, Duck for Turkey Day, Feathers for Peacock, Never Say a Mean Word Again, and The Porridge-Pot Goblin. Visit her website at www.jacquelinejules.com