Barbara Saltzman: The Jester's Mom

Barbara Saltzman is filled with such energy that she is an inspiration to listen to and watch.

The mother of author-illustrator David Saltzman has worked tirelessly to bring her son’s book to children and adults across the country — first publishing the book and now telling the world about it. The guiding light behind The Jester & Pharley Phund, “The Jester’s Mom” has traveled the country inspiring children and helping youngsters realize that it’s up to them to make a difference, it’s up to them to care.

An honor graduate of the University of Southern California School of Journalism, Barbara was an editor at the Los Angeles Times before publishing her son’s book and overseeing the creation of The Phund.

Barbara Saltzman

In schools and hospitals, auditoriums and libraries, bookstores and business conference rooms Barbara has been a sought-after inspirational speaker. It doesn’t matter if she’s reading The Jester to students or to children undergoing chemo or to teachers looking for new ways to motivate students. Barbara delivers The Jester’s messages with such passion and enthusiasm that anyone who listens to her becomes a true believer in the power of laughter and the joy of life.

“It’s thrilling for me to hear back from children, parents, teachers and health-care professionals,” she says. “They tell me how much The Jester has been inspiring them for 15, 20 and 25 years. Now, they are introducing The Jester Has Lost His Jingle to a new generation. Nothing makes me happier than to see how David’s story touches and transforms lives — in English, Spanish and Japanese.

“Especially meaningful have been all the calls and emails and social media postings I’ve gotten from teachers who’ve loved and used this book in their classrooms since its release 25 years ago. Seeing them now read the story on Zoom and YouTube and telling their students that David and The Jester & Pharley can help us all get through the COVID-19 pandemic touches my heart.

“David dealt with the prospect of dying throughout his senior year at Yale by believing in himself. He always remained optimistic, determined to live and filled with fun and laughter, just like the characters he created. They helped him get through the day, and now they can help us all get through these days.

“I look forward to hearing back from today’s students, families, teachers and health care workers about how David’s story impacts them.”


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The Jester's Mom's Journal:

Sixth Graders

Sixth Graders Remember a Classmate

Whenever we bring our literacy program to a school, we never know whose life David’s story will deeply touch. In the fall of 2008, I was in San Jose, CA, at McKinley Elementary, where Comcast sponsored a Reading Makes A Difference program. Second grade teacher Lydia Adidijaja told me about Bentley, a student she mentored in first grade, who was now coping with an inoperable form of brain cancer

Read More »

Erik’s Story

“I have that book,” the first grader said quietly, “and the doll. I got them when I was at the hospital.” I don’t always get to meet the children cheered up by The Jester book and doll.

Read More »

Amber’s Story

When Amber Delos Santos walked up to say hello, she looked as if she had just stepped out of The Jester Has Lost His Jingle. Dressed in a medieval costume as part of her school’s celebration of characters in literature, she looked like she and The Jester & Pharley lived in the same kingdom.

Read More »

A Birthday Surprise in Compton

Turning around to see 891 students, teachers and administrators at Jefferson Elementary School in Compton, CA, sing “Happy Birthday” to me a few years ago lit up my sky. But then came the Roman candles. These dedicated students – 87% of whom are on the government-assisted lunch program – gave The Jester & Pharley Phund a check for $669 to give Jester books and dolls to hospitalized children.

Read More »

Thinking of Two Special Moms

Whenever Mother’s Day approaches, I always think of two special moms — Autumn Fennell and Wendy Fachon. Each had to hear the words no mother wants to hear: “Your son has brain cancer.” Each has had to watch her son struggle through its cruelty. For Autumn, the ordeal began when her son was 2. For Wendy, the ordeal began when her son was 19.

Read More »

Special Awards


CA Assembly District 66
Woman of Distinction Award

Assembly Member Al Muratsuchi
honors Jester & Pharley Phund founder,
Barbara Saltzman, as a State Assembly District 66 Woman of Distinction.


LBUSD Superintendent's Distinguished Community
Service Award

Long Beach Superintendent of Schools Christopher J. Steinhauser presents the Superintendent’s Distinguished Community Service Award to Barbara Saltzman.


Everyday Hero: Ribbon of
Hope Awardee, National
Coalition for Cancer Survivorship

General Norman Schwarzkopf congratulates Barbara Saltzman
at Everyday Hero Award ceremonies
in Washington, D.C.


Woman of the Year Finalist,
Daily Breeze Women of Distinction Award

Barbara Saltzman honored
by Torrance, CA newspaper.


Circle of Life, Circle of Love, Education Award: Pediatric Therapy Network

Terri Nishimura, PTN founder,
presents award to Barbara Saltzman.

heart of gold

Heart of Gold Award:
The Randal D. Simmons
Outreach Foundation

Barbara Saltzman with Lisa
Simmons, widow of LAPD SWAT
Officer Randy Simmons.

Life Inspiration

Life Inspiration Award:
American Cancer Society,
Mid-South Division

Sallie Datnoff Downs presents Life Inspiration award to The Jester’s Mom from the Mid-South Division of the American Cancer Society.