Caroline Kusin Pritchard comes home with pals ‘Gitty and Kvetch’
By Deb Silverthorn
Once upon a time, there was a young Dallasite whose books were her treasures, the stories and lessons from within her guiding light. The tale not yet complete, that young girl returns home to share her own book.
First-time author Caroline Kusin Pritchard will read her new “Gitty and Kvetch” at 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 3, at Interabang Books. She’ll also sign books.
“There is so much privilege in what I’m doing,” said Pritchard, “and it’s incredibly exciting to bring my family, and my book, home to Dallas.”
Pritchard’s debut is a funny and sweet story of a young child and her feathered friend, the two different in almost every way. In the book, seasoned with Yiddish phrases and an accompanying glossary, “Gitty and Kvetch” teach each other, and the reader, lessons of solidarity and love.
Gitty and Kvetch couldn’t be more different: Gitty sees the bright side of life, while her curmudgeonly friend Kvetch is always complaining. One day, Gitty ropes Kvetch into shlepping off on a new adventure to their purple treehouse. Even when Kvetch sees signs of impending doom everywhere, Gitty finds silver linings and holds onto her super-special surprise reason for completing their mission.
When Gitty’s plan goes awry, it’s she who’s down in the dumps — relying on Kvetch to lift her spirits.
“Gitty poured out of me and Kvetch — well, he comes from five generations of Texas Jewish personality. I was surrounded by my kids and I was inspired,” said the author. “The yin and yang of the characters just flowed. We’re all a little bit of both; it’s the ebb and flow of life. The important thing is to know when — and how — to show up for the people we love when they need us the most.”
Pritchard’s first storytellers were her parents, Gary and Karleen Kusin. She and her siblings Ben (Marino Monroe), Eric (Irene) and Elizabeth (David) Vivero, grew up together in North Dallas.
Pritchard graduated from The Hockaday School, then earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees at Stanford University. She has worked for Teach For America, The LEAD (Leading Education by Advancing Digital) Commission, a public-private EdTech initiative under President Barack Obama’s administration and online educational service Khan Academy.
Married to Tavita Pritchard, a football coach at Stanford University, and living in Palo Alto, California, Pritchard is the mother of Afi, Manu and Leone.
While on maternity leave with her second child, Pritchard’s grandfather Mel Kusin died. “I kept thinking about how we each have just one life to live and doing that with passion was everything my grandfather instilled in us,” she said. “He inspired me to get serious about my own passion, which was always writing.”
Pritchard took online writing courses, read hundreds of children’s books of many styles and pursued an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She spent 10 days on campus each semester and worked remotely with an adviser for the rest of the program.
A voracious reader as a child, now as a mother and professional member of the PJ Library and its PJ Our Way team, Pritchard cares about what children enjoy reading.
The Jewish flavor of Pritchard’s book comes as no surprise to Rabbi David Stern, senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El, where the Kusin family has been involved for decades.
“Caroline has always had a soul for Judaism, a passion for education and the magnetism of a great storyteller, and all those qualities come together in ‘Gitty and Kvetch,’” he said. “I am proud, impressed and not at all surprised — this book and the joy it will bring are just another step in Caroline’s journey of commitment to growing kids’ hearts and lifting their sights.”
Pride for “Gitty and Kvetch” is multi-generational. Pritchard’s son, Afi, wants to be an author like his mother. Her father, well, he’s pretty much telling all his friends too. The author has two as yet unannounced projects under contract for Simon & Schuster.
“Caroline had a passion, and she followed it. I’d never doubt her,” said dad Gary, recalling his little girl reading to an audience of her stuffed animals. “To watch her evolve brings us such immense joy. The best, no doubt, is yet to come.”