Skip to main content

Author Interview: Anna Yaphe Levine

Let's travel (virtually) to Western Asia, shall we? I have asked Anna Yaphe Levine to give us a peek into the children's and young adult book scene in Israel. Thank you, Anna! Anna is the author of Jodie's Hanukkah Dig (illustrated by Ksenia Topaz and published by Kar-Ben Publishing, 2008), which was named a Notable Book for Younger Readers by the Sydney Taylor Award, and Freefall (Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins, 2008), a Sydney Taylor Honor Award Winner for Teen Readers. She is also the regional advisor of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Israel.

Anna, how would you define Israeli children's literature and Israeli young adult literature?

I asked our school librarian to help me with this question. Fantasy has become really popular of late with the usual titles like the Harry Potter series, the Pullman trilogy and Twilight trilogy. Many of the novels in the fantasy genre that are read here are books in translation. Although, some new Israeli writers are beginning to experiment with the genre. I guess we're all getting..uhuh.."bitten" by it.

Historical fiction and non-fiction goes in waves. As we near Holocaust Remembrance Day in April/May (the exact date is determined according to the Hebrew calendar) there is a request for books on the topic, same with the Yom Kippur War (October), and the Six Day War (June) or other topical events.

What are the current trends in children's and young adult publishing in Israel?

We read a lot of books in translation. Fantasy, adventure, suspense and coming of age books are high on the list of good reads. Popular authors read in translation are Christopher Paolini, Stephenie Meyer, and Rick Riordan to name a few.

What are the challenges and rewards of being a writer or illustrator for children and young adults in Israel?

I write in English and publish in the States. My most recent young adult novel is Freefall (Greenwillow/HarperCollins). In Israel, it is hard to find my books in local book stores which sell mostly Hebrew books. However, through my writing I am able to bring a part of the land, and the culture to others who are unfamiliar with our lives, outside of what’s seen on TV, and that gives me a great sense of satisfaction.

As the SCBWI representative I know that illustrators and writers have a hard time making a living from their art because the market is quite small. However, they are a very supportive community. The Israeli Illustrator’s Association is very active in promoting their members’ work.

What children's and young adult books, authors, and illustrators from Israel would you recommend? What is your favorite Israeli children's or YA book and why is it your favorite?

I conferred once again with our local librarian and my junior high students. Galila Ran Fedder, who has been writing and publishing for the last 20 years, is still a popular choice. Hagar Yanai, Dorit Orgad, Ora Morag and Noga Moran are a few names that were mentioned.

Both my children were born in Israel and so I found myself reading a lot of Hebrew children’s books to them. My favorite was a book by Miriam Ruth called The Story of Five Balloons. I loved the rhythm, rhyme and simplicity of it. Another author I love is Leah Goldberg, especially her story Room to Rent which is about the importance of having good neighbors, and in a country this size, it is an issue!

What is it like to be the regional advisor of SCBWI Israel? What kind of work do you do for this role? Can you tell us about some of SCBWI Israel's activities in 2009? What are some plans for 2010?

Being the regional advisor has its challenges. Our members are spread across the country and our one free day of the week, Saturday, is a day of religious observance for some, so holding a meeting on the Sabbath is not possible. I try and arrange our meetings to coincide with the beginning or ending of Jewish holidays like Succoth (the Feast of the Tabernacles) or Hanukkah.

{An SCBWI Israel meeting in 2009}

This Hanukkah we lit candles with Carolivia Herron the author of Nappy Hair. She was in Israel doing research for a new book project and generously agreed to spend an evening with us. She was such a wonderful story teller. We had a marvelous time.

{Anna with Carolivia Herron}

Our next big project will be a video conference for illustrators. Miri Leshem is Israel’s new illustrators' coordinator and we are planning on holding a video conference in Tel Aviv with an art director and agent from New York. We’re very excited about this project which will help Israeli artists get their work into the international market.

Thank you, Anna, for introducing Israeli children's and young adult literature to us! I wish you and all the members of SCBWI Israel all the best for 2010!


  1. If I'm allowed to, I'd like to recommend a really beautiful picture book from Israel: The Heart-shaped leaf by Shira Gefen (text) and David Polonsky (illustrations). A small leaf clings to a girls head as she's walking home, and she needs to find a way to return it to its own tree. You can see some of the illustrations here, just click on the book's title:


Post a Comment

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