Planet Picture Book


Jerusalem - almond tree in bloom

Destination: Israel. I’ve been jotting down ideas of picture book titles by Israeli book creators over the last couple of years. I wouldn’t say my list is extensive, but it’s rich in interest and variety. I plan to review three titles on the blog this month, but I’m keen to share all my finds with you, so here is a snapshot of each book on the list.

First is Room for Rent, a translation by Jessica Setbon of a Hebrew classic by Leah Goldberg, illustrated by Shmuel Katz. A series of potential animal tenants come to visit the room for rent, but each finds fault with another animal residing in the building, until Dove arrives. This book recommendation came via a tweet by translator Yael Cahane-Shadmi back in 2017. As with many great stories, there is a story behind the book. Publisher Ilan Greenfield of Gefen Publishing had been offered the opportunity to publish an English language edition of Room for Rent 20 years ago but had turned it down. It was only when he stumbled on the Hebrew edition of the book during an office clean-out that he realised what he had missed. You can read more about the challenges of bringing this book to life in English in this fascinating article.

Following a review by Terry Hong on the fabulous ‘multi-culti’ blog BookDragon, I decided to look out for Nora the Mind Reader written by Israeli poet Orit Gidali, illustrated by Aya Gordon Noy and translated from the Hebrew by Annette Appel (Enchanted Lion, 2012). Last month, this same title was reviewed by Avery Fischer Udagawa on the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative blog while my copy negotiated the Australian postal network. It’s a thought-provoking read about the discrepancy between what people think and say and the confusion and upset this can cause. So how cool to have a magic wand that enables you to see what people are really thinking!

In the same book post, I received a wonderful narrative non-fiction title that recounts the story of the 1936 performance by a group of Jewish musicians who later became the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. A Concert in the Sand by Tami Shev-Tov and Rachella Sandbank, illustrated by Avi Ofer (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2017) is one of three contemporary picture books recommended in this article by Marjorie Ingall in Tablet Magazine. This book is a lovely way to introduce younger readers to instruments and the excitement of an orchestral performance as well as a significant slice of history.

Do Not Lick This Book: It’s Full of Germs (Allen & Unwin, 2017) comes to you courtesy of my local library! Written by scientist-turned-children’s author Idan Ben-Barak and illustrated by Julian Frost, this entertaining, interactive non-fiction title about microbes won the 2018 Eve Pownall Award for Information Books at the highly respected Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards. Now based in Melbourne, Idan Ben-Barak was born in Jerusalem and still writes occasionally in Hebrew. Julian Frost is a Melbourne-based illustrator, animation director and game designer.  Their books have been translated into over a dozen languages.

Finally, keep your eyes open for two forthcoming titles by Israeli book creators. Snoozie, Sunny, and So-so by Dafna Ben-zvi, illustrated by Ofra Amit and translated by Annette Appel is due for release by Enchanted Lion in early December. This gorgeous-sounding story is about a dog and a cat who are best of friends and their chance encounter with a small dog who has been feeling ‘so-so’.

In January 2020, Triangle Square Books for Young Readers will publish Long-Haired Cat-Boy Cub written by Etgar Keret, who is better known for his short stories and graphic novels for adults. The book is illustrated by Sondra Silverston and translated from the Hebrew by Aviel Basil and stars a young boy with a vivid imagination. I’m looking forward to learning more about long-haired cat-boy cubs!   

Reviews of three of the above titles to follow this month! Which ones? Ah, I thought I’d keep you guessing this time . . .

[Image: Jerusalem – almond tree in bloom by B. Negin, made available under a creative commons licence. Source:]

Add comment