Thursday, May 2, 2024

Q&A with Amalia Hoffman



Amalia Hoffman is the author and illustrator of the new children's board book First Fruits, which focuses on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. Her other books include Afikotective. She is based in the New York area.


Q: What inspired you to create First Fruits?


A: When I grew up in Israel, the holiday of Shavuot was always celebrated in school. I have great memories of dressing in white, wearing a wreath of flowers on my head, and carrying a basket filled with figs, pomegranates, dates and flowers.


But Shavuot is one of the least known Jewish holidays. That is why I always wanted to write a book about it.


Q: What do you hope young kids learn about Shavuot from the story?


A: I hope that kids will learn to appreciate the hard work of farmers that tend to the land. I hope that this book will give kids more knowledge about the Shavuot holiday and its origins.

Q: With this book, did you focus on the illustrations first or the text?


A: I usually work on my stories by sketching the illustrations and scribbling the text at the same time. I use a folder with inserts so that I can be free to insert pages and change them at any time.


Q: What do you like about creating board books?


A: Board books are the first books that a child will be introduced to. They are essential to a child’s intellectual development. They must be simple but at the same time, you can pack so much in such a small book with a minimum number of words.


As a grandma, I’m always in search for board books. Creating a board book feels to me as if I have had the privilege of contributing something special not only for ones but also for the parents and grandparents.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on a couple of picture books and another board book.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Since Shavuot is an agricultural holiday, I liked the idea of using hand prints so as a way of celebrating farmers that plant, water and harvest.


While the book is very simple, I devoted a lot of time to researching how the holiday was celebrated in biblical times. Even though it’s a board book, I decided to add a back matter with more information about the holiday.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Amalia Hoffman.

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