Skip to main content

Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour: Interview with Illustrator Shahar Kober

This was originally posted at Into the Wardrobe on January 23, 2009.

Welcome to the last stop on the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour!

Every year, the American Association of Jewish Libraries recognizes the best in Jewish children's literature by giving the Sydney Taylor Book Awards to books that exemplify the highest literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience.

This year, one of the Sydney Taylor Honor Awards in the Younger Readers Category goes to Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride by Deborah Bodin Cohen, with illustrations by Shahar Kober (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2008).

Using simple yet effective drawings, a light palette that is fresh and elegant, and balanced use of space, illustrator Shahar Kober shows us Engineer Ari's train ride to Jerusalem. During his journey across Israel, Engineer Ari collects goodies to celebrate the Jewish New Year and learns an important lesson about friendship and forgiveness. Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride is based on the true story of the first historic train ride from Jaffa to Jerusalem in 1892.

For the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour, I had the honor of interviewing Shahar about illustrating children's books and working on Engineer Ari. I am so excited to now present my interview with Shahar, along with some illustrations from Engineer Ari and their rough drafts!

Shahar on Shahar:

I'm a graduate of Shenkar College of Engineering and Design (2005), with a B.Des degree in illustration and graphic design. I work as a freelance illustrator for children’s books, advertising, newspapers, magazines, television and the Internet.

I am currently illustrating two weekly columns in Yedioth Aharonot, Israel's most read newspaper, on a regular basis.

My first three children's books were published in 2008. (Engineer Ari in the USA, and the other two in Israel.)

I'm now working on a new picture book in Israel and will soon begin working on a sequel to Engineer Ari.

I'm married to a beautiful redhead who is about to give birth to our first baby very soon. We have a very demanding cat and a very energetic dog. We live in a small town near Tel-Aviv, Israel.

What was your road to publication as a children's book illustrator?

I graduated from college four years ago. My final project was an illustrated children's book, which got great reviews but no one wanted to publish it! So, finding no work illustrating for children, I found my way to some of the leading newspapers in the country and started doing freelance editorial illustrations. After a year or so I tried my luck again, and after several attempts I managed to get a freelance job illustrating for a children's TV channel. That opened the door to other jobs, which led to other jobs, which led to other jobs (and so on). I keep on working for newspapers.

What motivates you to illustrate for children?

Most of all - I'm looking to have some fun. I have other illustration projects for adults - editorials for newspapers and magazines, illustrating for advertisements and other media, which all provide a good income, but in most cases they are not as fun as illustrating for children. I have the liberty to go a bit more wild when it comes to children's books, an opportunity I cannot miss.

What are the challenges and rewards of illustrating children's books?

The main challenge is doing something new. I like to do something new in every book I work on. Try new techniques, new angles, new colors, new things I never had to draw. I also find it a challenge to develop new exciting characters which won't resemble characters I drew in the past.

The biggest reward of illustrating a book is watching it come out of the press, to hold the first bound book in your hand, and to smell the fresh pages.

Who are your favorite children's book illustrators? Why are they your favorites?

My favorite children's book illustrators are:

1. David Polonsky - He's an Israeli illustrator. I envy his ability to excel in every illustration he does, and his ability to master so many styles.

2. Wolf Erlbruch - A German illustrator. I love his style, his colors and his compositions.

3. Maurice Sendak - For nostalgic reasons.

What did you think of Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride when you first read the story?

Well, I immediately thought it would be great fun to draw the red engine! I like trains. I was also very happy with the chance to investigate the period, how people looked and dressed, how local architecture looked like, how trains looked like back then, etc. The visual research prior to the sketches stage is always my favorite part, especially in such a book which is based on history.

What exactly was your process when you were working on Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride? How much research did you do? Did you use models/source pictures or did you draw from your memory/imagination?

As I just mentioned, I began the work doing visual research on the period. I checked how people dressed at the time, how buildings looked like, how the views looked like, etc., etc. Most research was done using simple image searches on the Internet. The next stage was doing a sketch of Ari, the main character in the book, and once it was approved by the publisher I went on with the rough drafts for the whole book. I first draw everything using a soft pencil. Once I'm happy with the general layout I do another set of roughs with more details of the whole book. After sending these to the publisher and getting some comments I continue to final black and white images, using a soft pencil and a technical pen. I scan these and start colouring using Adobe Photoshop.

How do you feel about Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride winning a Sydney Taylor Honor in the Younger Readers Category?

I'm very honored to win the award. When I think about it, this is actually the first award I ever won in my life. Even as a child I never won a thing! So, I'm very happy about this.

Shahar, thank you so much for kindly answering all my questions and sharing your images for the book. And whoa, I look forward to seeing your art for the sequel!

Dear readers, click here to view Shahar's portfolio. Click here to read Becky Laney's interview with Engineer Ari author Deborah Bodin Cohen. And click here for a list of all the other stops on the blog tour. :D



Popular posts from this blog

Ako'y Isang Mabuting Pilipino (I Am A Good Filipino) by Noel Cabangon and Jomike Tejido

This one is a real crowd pleaser: Ako'y Isang Mabuting Pilipino , Lampara Books ' 2012 picture book adaptation of Noel Cabangon 's song, with Cabangon's original Filipino lyrics, functional English translations by Becky Bravo , and illustrations by Jomike Tejido ! Cabangon's inspiring lyrics remind children of the ways they can be good Filipinos, such as doing their best in school and obeying their parents. There are plenty of reminders for adults too, such as following traffic rules and not selling their votes during elections. Tejido's illustrations are warm and wholesome, acrylic paintings on hand-woven mats that depict different ways to be good citizens.    You just can't go wrong with Ako'y Isang Mabuting Pilipino ! Children and adults will understand and appreciate the lyrics and paintings. The chords of the song are provided, so music lovers can play and sing along. There are notes and guide questions for educators. There is even

Author Interview: Edna Cabcabin Moran

This was originally posted at Into the Wardrobe on May 28, 2009. Today, I am SO PROUD to present my interview with Filipino American author illustrator Edna Cabcabin Moran . *bursts with pride* Welcome, Edna!! Author/Illustrator, Edna Cabcabin Moran. Photo by Mark Moran. Can you tell us a bit about your Asian American heritage? My parents are from Eastern Samar, Philippines, an historic island in the Visayan island chain. My father was a U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer who brought my mom and older siblings to this country. I am the first American-born child in the family. Growing up, I always felt like I straddled two cultures. I'm very American in the way I dress, speak and carry myself. I don't know Tagalog and I lost touch with my parent's dialect, Waray Waray. However, I have strong cultural roots and have retained much of my Filipino-ness which includes a deep, abiding respect for the elders and their stories. Perhaps the family meal is a good indicator of how one is ra

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

There is a barren mountain aptly called Fruitless Mountain, and by it lies the dark Jade River. In the shadow of the mountain is a poor village where everything is the dull color of mud. In this village live Ba and Ma and their quick-thinking daughter Minli. Ba, Ma, and Minli work hard in the fields every day, yet they only have plain rice to eat for their meals. Ma sighs with discontentment all the time. Minli looks at her weary father, her dissatisfied mother, and her desolate village and wishes she knew how she could change their fortune. Ba has told Minli wonderful stories about the Never-Ending Mountain and the Old Man of the Moon who knows the answer to all important questions, for he alone holds and reads the Book of Fortune. Minli decides to find the Never-Ending Mountain and climb up to the moon so that she can ask the Old Man how she can change her family's fortune. And so begins Minli's journey. Along the way, she makes many new friends, including a dragon, a buffa