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Little Hands

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Azila Talit Reisenberger’s formative reading experiences

Hansel and Gretal

Upon a time, far away in a hot country, flanked by a very salty sea, before she was a scholar, a Rabbi, a mother, before Life in Translation, Azila Talit Reisenberger had little hands and this is what she read …

Azila’s earliest memory of books and reading:

I grew up in Tel Aviv. At the time that I was little we had only a few Hebrew authors.
I remember more the book shelves at our home and occasionally reading, taking a volume of the encyclopedia –going through new stuff was a favorite past time of mine, as was having my parents read to us.

Azila’s picture books:

As young children my sisters and I loved Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel. I remember as early teenager that I LOVED L.M Montgomery’s Ann of Green Gables and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. My sisters and I also red many of the “detective books like Famous Five…etc. I loved “Gilgi—One of Us” by Irmgard Keun, and In Hebrew Pipi Longstocking is Bilbi Bat-Gerev, Pippi being untenable in Hebrew as it is the standard colloquialism for urine. Bat-Gerev = literally Daughter of sockAstrid Lindgren’s Pipi Longstocking with its crazy pictures of the horse and her…

Another book that impacted on my life a great deal is: The Heart by the Italian The Heart, by Edmondo d’Amicis. We need this book in modern translation in SA –it is a beautifully told and magnificent story about a life in a village in Italy and very relevant to living in SA (rich and poor, educated and just good etc). The values that it imparts through the story are significant.

We loved our parents’ book shelves with the books of O Henry and Sherlock Holmes. I am surprised that O Henri is not more known in SA, his stories are short and fantastically entertaining.

Azila, as an adult, reading with children and on Hebrew children’s literature in Tel Aviv:

Dr Seuss is the best and I used to tell my children my own stories. this was great for them and great for me…

As I said when I was little we had few Hebrew authors in Israel now there is a tsunami of authors for children and for adults. On my last visit I could believe it, on every street corner there is a book shop and they are busy. Once a year in June-July (which is a summer in the North hemisphere) there is a book-week, where all publishing houses in Israel get stand on Tel Aviv city square and they sell their book for 50%. People come with back-packs and fill it up with books. It is fantastic !

More on Hebrew Book Week:

Israel Book Week is  actually, 11 days of book festivals in cities all over the country. Over 7,000 new books were published in 2006 in Israel.Hebrew Book Week is a festival that takes place all over Israel, at 12 markets organized by the publishing houses and another 38 markets that are locally organized, but the fair in Tel Aviv in Rabin Square is the largest and most important – about a kilometer of stalls selling books are spread across the square. The current Book Week features 150 different publishers, presenting tens of thousands of titles. All over Israel book stores offer special Book Week discounts throughout the month of June.
Children shopping at Hebrew Book Week. Close to 500 books for children were published in Israel in 2006.

One enthusiastic Hebrew Book Week visitor wrote:

Yippee! Hebrew Book Week!(June 4th, 2008, posted by Imshin)

We’ve just got home from what must be one of the best loved events of the year in Israel, at least in Tel Aviv, at least among us bookish types – Hebrew Book Week. Rows and rows of book stalls fill Rabin Square for a week every year, selling thousands and thousands of books on every subject and of every kind. Readers of every size, shape and age descend on the square to buy (hopefully) cheaper books, but mainly to enjoy the atmosphere and the abundance. It’s a true book-lover’s fest.

Until they moved the event to the park for security reasons about six or seven years ago, I always went with the girls every year. I learnt to get there early, before the masses. Later on you can’t get near the stalls, it’s so full.

After they moved it to the park we never went. It wasn’t the same. This was the ultimate urban event. Somehow it didn’t fit in the park. So this year they moved it back to Rabin Square, and we came back as well.

It was great. Cell phones made it easier to split up and each go off and spend time choosing books we liked. We’re all excited about our new books, although we are all three of us in the middle of other books and have serious piles waiting on our bedside tables. Is there anything more exciting than a newly-bought book?

And on the way home we stopped for take-away Buddha Burgers. Yummy.
The best thing about Hebrew Book Week, which apparently was started in the nineteen twenties to promote Hebrew literature (it worked!), is that you mingle with all these thousands and thousands of ‘nice’ people. People who read!

All we hear all the time is that people don’t read these days, especially not youngsters. Tell that to all the people in Rabin Square this evening! And all those books! And all in Hebrew – a language that was dead as a doorknob (is that a phrase or did I just make that up?) only a hundred years ago.

Anne of Green Gables Turns 100 this year, Irene Gammel from The New York Times calls LM Montgomery a ‘Chick-lit pioneer’:

It isn’t easy to dislike the children’s classic “Anne of Green Gables,” but it’s possible. One hundred years ago this summer, when the book, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s first novel, appeared, The New York Times deemed its heroine, the talkative redheaded orphan Anne Shirley, to be “altogether too queer.” It was an immediate best seller nonetheless, moving 19,000 copies in five months. (The Times later cited its review in a 1996 roundup of wrong-­headed reviews titled “Oops!”)

Seven sequels and a century ­later, Anne is big business. The story of how a fiery, independent-­minded 11-year-old captured the hearts of fictional Avonlea has sold 50 million books in 36 languages, generated multiple screen and theater adaptations and — according to this reviewer’s informal research — inspired lifelong, rhapsodic devotion from around 8 of every 10 adult women.

100-year-old Anne makes it into Newsweek too!

Aims of The Little Hands Trust
• To support initiatives that promote reading for enjoyment.
• To mentor African literary artists, including writers, illustrators and editors, to produce creative, suitable and appropriate children’s storybooks for children of various ages with a focus on early childhood (ages 0 to 9 years).
• To collaborate with African publishers to increase and sustain publication of children’s books in African languages. To initiate and support translations of stories between African languages, from African languages to ex-colonial languages and from ex-colonial languages to African languages.
• To help to orientate and educate adults in the importance and significance of reading to and with children.


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