BOOKS A Butterfly for Italian Kids

Schermata 2014-05-25 alle 21.43.36By Ada Treves

Parpar (butterfly, in Hebrew) is the novelty by the historic publishing house Giuntina, based in Florence, that specializes in books about Jewish history and culture. The new series of books for children, an idea by Shulim Vogelmann, was born in late November, when the first book arrived in the bookshops. The first two volumes of the series are translations of books by Kar-Ben, the American publishing house, which has its headquarters in Minneapolis and is part of Lerner Publishing Group.

The plan is to publish only few books every year, that will be light, colorful and cheerful like butterflies: traditional stories, stories of Israeli authors, books about the rules of Judaism and the presence of God in the world. The first title, “Mendel’s Accordion” is a story that resonates with klezmer music, and Heidi Smith Hyde, the author, and illustrator Johanna Van Der Sterre have managed to reproduce in a fascinating way the atmosphere of the Melnitz, the European village where they stage the beginning of the story. And the music is intertwined with the theme of migration, a migration both of people and talent, with music that slowly disappears from everyday life, to reappear two generations later, between rock, jazz and swing, in New York. The second release in the series, “The Tower of Babel” describes the quiet but boring life when the whole world spoke one language. So boring that the inhabitants of Shinar began looking for some ideas to liven up their days.

The decision to embark in the adventure of creating a new series dedicated to young readers was born, Shulim Vogelmann says, “because I had two little girls and I realized the importance of having Jewish books for children at home. There is also the desire for renewal and new challenges in the publishing house, of course, but I was fascinated by the beauty of the children’s books I discovered while scouting for the new series”.
With the current crises in which publishers often flounder, the idea of starting a totally new project is bold: “We are at the beginning of a new project and we are still learning, but the first books have been a great success, and this was very important to encourage us”.

The third volume, yet a translation from Kar-Ben Publishing, tells a story whose main character is a monkey named Ester, busy with Hanukkah gifts for his friends. “A fun book, proposing it to our readers will be a bit of a challenge. We also plan to also publish books related to Jewish holidays, for Jewish children and hopefully also for their non-Jewish friends”.

The fourth book in the series will be the Italian translation of a book by the Israeli author Rutu Modan, already known by the young readers of DafDaf, the Jewish newspaper for children, that has dedicated two pages exactly to that book, before knowing it was going to be translated in Italian.