Green Bean Books

Q&A with Orit Magia

1. Why was this book a project you were excited to take on?

It is a lively and cheerful tale – perfect for toddlers. It’s enjoyable and engaging for families to share and sweeps into the holiday spirit.

2. Who are your artistic inspirations? 

Difficult question. Influences are everywhere. It begins with renowned artists from art and design history, extends to forgotten artists, and persists in modern artists across various mediums. It is nature, it is music, it is movement and colors. It’s present in busy cities or small towns, above and below the surface, spanning continents like Europe, America, Africa, and Asia, yet it always circles back to a small country in the Middle East.

3. What was your path to becoming an artist/illustrator like? Can you offer tips or words of wisdom for aspiring illustrators? 

It was clear to me from a very young age that I would be an artist because I always felt a strong need to express myself through art. Indeed, this is what I learned first in high school and later in Bezalel. My path is not very conventional, because I actually studied industrial design and for years I was involved in design – illustrating only for myself. Only in recent years have I felt that my need to tell a visual story through an illustration is something I can’t ignore. I wrote and illustrated my first book and from that moment – there was no turning back: I fell in love and I’m here to stay! I don’t consider it a big change because I feel like I’m continuing to do what I’ve always done: tell a story. Sometimes in two dimensions, sometimes in three dimensions, sometimes in words, and sometimes in illustrations.

For many years, I hesitated to express myself in the format known as a “book” – almost out of a “holy fear”: first, because it is printed and distributed to everyone. This is a fact, and there’s no room for regret.  Secondly, because when addressing an audience of children, a large dose of sensitivity and responsibility is required, along with the ability to condense and present an alternative world. And of course, because written language is a delicate and important craft. I still consider all of these things, but if I had to give advice to a beginning illustrator, I would recommend trying precisely the things that scare them the most and elevating that fear to a respectful treatment of the child reading the story.

4. Which Jewish stories, or secular children’s books, did you love as a child? 

As a child, I loved stories of The wise men of Chelm. The storytelling approach was always witty and clever. It both amused me and made me think.

5. Why do you think this story is an important one to tell? 

Good stories can be a great alternative to reality. They open doors to other worlds, make us think, get angry, laugh, hurt, and identify with characters. They help us understand small pieces of who we are, feel without guilt, and process our emotions. For children, stories are even more crucial because they don’t yet have a full perspective of the world.

6. Do you see a Jewish value behind the tale, and if so, what is it?

In the case of this specific story, it deals with Sukkot, which, to my knowledge, is celebrated exclusively by Jews :). The value of any story that deals with tradition lies in its ability to make you feel a sense of belonging. 

7. Where do you stand on the ‘Own Voices’ debate? For a Jewish story, do you think it’s important to have a Jewish illustrator? Could your story have been illustrated just as well by a non-Jewish illustrator? 

I assume it depends on the story. The more abstract the story is, the more universally applicable its message, making the illustrator’s background less relevant. Since this is a story that deals with a specific holiday, I guess the illustrator’s background is more relevant, and in this case, it’s good to have an insider 😉

8. What lessons do you hope this story inspires in readers? 

In these challenging times we are going through as a nation, it seems almost impossible, but I hope that it will do for readers what it did for me: bring joy and happiness and encourage them to be swept away into the holiday spirit. 

9. What words of wisdom can you offer for aspiring illustrators? 

To connect with your inner child, to be generous, free and playful, curious, and thorough. Simple, isn’t it?