Imagine being able to see what people are thinking. So often what people think is not in alignment with what they say, as a young girl discovers in this picture book import from Israel. Nora feels insulted when Harry, a boy in kindergarten, comments on her ‘flamingo legs’. Back home, her thoughtful and supportive mother gives her a hug, then goes to find her magic wand.
Much to Nora’s amazement, when she looks through the wand, she can see what people are saying and thinking. And it’s rarely the same! Additionally, she observes that good thoughts are often transformed into mean words in transit. For Nora, this lacks sense, so she decides to do something about it. By speaking her mind—in a good way—she tackles the flamingo issue head on with Harry and creates a positive outcome for both of them. She no longer needs the magic wand, but the neighbour’s dog is very happy to have it!
When I first read this title, I wondered whether the young readers in my life (ages 5 and 7) might struggle to grasp the concept of thoughts vs. speech, much like the moment when Nora picks up the wand for the first time:
‘I get it!’ she exclaims aloud in the illustration, while a thought bubble shows she is not so sure: I think I get it…
My daughters did get it! And the fresh, colourful mixed-media illustrations, which both support and continue the storyline, were a crucial element in their understanding. Illustrator Aya Gordon-Noy has opted for a bubble wand as the magic wand, creating a clever connection with the thought bubbles Nora sees as she looks through the wand at her classmates. At the same time, speech bubbles show readers what individual characters are saying. By pausing to explore the difference between the characters’ thoughts and speech in the illustrations, the message is clear.
Another lovely touch in the illustrations is the Hebrew lightly printed in the background of the creamy pages—a reminder of the language this book was originally written in. The pops of pink and blue used for Nora and Harry’s clothing lend additional visual appeal. Eagle-eyed readers will spy one of Orit Gidali’s books of poetry on Nora’s mother’s bookshelf.
Now to find a magic bubble wand of my own! Now wouldn’t that be a unique way to solve the world’s problems?
Nora the Mind Reader by Orit Gidali, illustrated by Aya Gordon-Noy, translated from the Hebrew by Annette Appel (Enchanted Lion, 2012)
Orit Gidali is a poet and writer who has published two books of poetry. Nora the Mind Reader, which she wrote for her six-year-old daughter, is her first picture book. She lives in Rehovot, Israel with her husband, poet Alex Ben-Ari and their four children.
Aya Gordon-Noy is and illustrator and graduate of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. She works with various techniques and materials and has illustrated a range of children’s books by Israeli authors. She lives with her family in Ein Hod, Israel.
Annette Appel grew up in Detroit and currently lives on a kibbutz in northern Israel. She studied translation at Beit Berl College in Israel. She has translated two children’s books from the Hebrew for Enchanted Lion Books: Nora the Mind Reader and Snoozie, Sunny and So-So (due out in May 2020).