#ReadIntl2020 Books Early Readers Features Genre International Lifespan of a Reader Picture Books Reading Themes Saturday Reads

[Saturday Reads] International Picturebooks on Neighbors and Friendship from Israel and Norway

Hello there, neighbors!


Myra here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.

These two translated international titles coming from Israel and Norway explore themes on neighbors and friends – making them perfect for our #ReadIntl2020 theme.

The Neighbors [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written and Illustrated by Einat Tsarfati Translated from Hebrew by Annette Appel
Published by Harry N. Abrams (2019)
ISBN: 1419731688 (ISBN13: 9781419731686) Borrowed from Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

This is a story of a young girl who lives in an apartment seven feet high. She takes the reader across each of the levels, describing each occupant in a highly interesting manner. Each of the neighbor’s doors reveal something about their personality or what they do or their predilections:

Evidently, this girl has keen powers of observation. Her neighbors are also wildly diverse coming from seemingly various parts of the world, and doing the most fascinating things; a few even had peculiar pets:

As the reader gets a voyeuristic peek in each of the neighbor’s homes, one wonders whether this is a product of the girl’s wild imagination or whether neighbors such as these actually exist in real life. My favourite is the home that has parties all the time:

As she reaches her home in the seventh floor, she decries the fact that her own family is certifiably boring in comparison. The twist at the end when she finally falls asleep brought a smile to my lips. This is a gorgeous picturebook with vivid and striking art. I imagine that this would be a perfect way to encourage young readers to describe their own community or neighborhood. You may also want to check out Fats’ review here.

Agnes’s Place [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written by Marit Larsen Illustrations by Jenny Løvlie Translated by Kari Dickson
Published by Amazon Crossing Kids (2021)
ISBN: 154202675X (ISBN13: 9781542026758). Advance Review Copy sent by publisher. Book photos taken by me.

Similar to the red-haired young girl above, Agnes knows pretty much all of her neighbors in her small town – all their rituals and their secrets:

She knows she is at home before she even opens her eyes in the morning. She knows who is baking, who is playing, and who is saying shush. She knows that the birds are hungry and that she is the only one who remembers.

As the image above says, she also knows pretty acutely “what it is like to be the only child in a place full of adults who never have time.” I enjoyed the subtle turns of phrase in this picturebook that do not directly articulate how Agnes must be feeling, yet one is able to infer what it must be like for Agnes through the art and the subtext.

Thus, when a new girl moves into Agnes’s place, Agnes was naturally curious and excited. Yet, for some reason, despite Agnes’s note with a drawing of a playground that is very clearly meant to be a playdate invitation, the new girl does not seem all that keen to get to know Agnes.

Just when Agnes was feeling increasingly discouraged about the new girl’s lack of interest, something magical happened.

I find this to be a lovely story about what it’s like to be new – not from the perspective of the new girl, which is usually what most stories on children in transition are all about (see my curation of titles here)  – but from the point of view of one who has always been around, and now faced with a choice of either welcoming the new person or not to one’s “place.” A truly credible story on reaching out with “the whole universe in the palm of her hand”, connecting, and finding joy in sharing wild and wonderful” secrets with a new friend.

#ReadIntl2020 Update: 44 (out of target 30): Israel (Einat Tsarfati is from Israel)

45 (out of target 30): Norway (Marit Larsen is from Norway but now based in New York, Jenny Løvlie is from Norway but now based in Wales)

16 (for language): translated from Hebrew

17 (for language): translated from Norwegian

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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