From planting a tree to joining the army, there are so many ways to show your passion for Israel. For local graphic designer Veronica Gagnelius, one sleepless night on maternity leave sparked an idea that she hopes will inspire a new generation of young Israel lovers. Veronica used her passion and her talents to write and illustrate a children’s book about Israel. Currently, Where in the World is Israel can be purchased through the Israel Center of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, with all proceeds benefiting scholarships to send teens and young adults on educational programs to Israel. We spoke with author and illustrator Veronica Gagnelius about the project.
Tell us about your book, Where in the World is Israel?
It’s a fun rhyming book that describes Israel accompanied by very bright fun colorful illustrations that will intrigue children ages 0-4. The book shows children the highlights of Israel, from the Dead Sea to the cats that roam the country. It’s bright and colorful – I know from experience that my infant pays much more attention to bright colors!
Have you always wanted to write children’s books?
I’ve wanted to write a children’s book for many years. When I was on maternity leave a few months ago, during one of my very few hours of sleep, the first two sentences of my book came to me. I grabbed my phone and put the lines in there real quick, and that’s how the book started.
What was your inspiration?
My daughter Natalia. We had been reading her a lot of cheesy children’s books and I wanted to write something more meaningful. And, of course, Israel was an inspiration. It’s very important that my daughter has a connection to Israel because we’re so far away. So many Jews in America are disconnected; they don’t see themselves as having a reason to care what’s happening. I hope that by starting kids young learning about Israel, it will inspire them to become little Zionists.
When did you first become passionate about Israel?
In college I took an intro to Judaism class, where I met a really cool rabbi. First we started going to his house for Shabbat dinners he had for college students. I wasn’t religious prior to this, so that’s how I found Judaism. He encouraged me to go to Israel, so I did. I studied at neve school in Jerusalem and toured the country… and from there I was hooked.
What’s your favorite part about Israel?
Safed – I love the kabbalists and all the art. It’s a very cool place – very unique.
Do you plan to write more children’s books?
My goal is to get this book professionally published and to create a series about lesser known countries like Israel, Cambodia, or Belarus so that kids can hopefully understand those places more and be less judgmental.
Your idea for these books stems from your love of travel. What’s your favorite country you’ve visited, aside from Israel?
Laos. It’s such a unique country, like nowhere I’ve ever been. It was beautiful, and people were extremely friendly.
Why do you think Jewish parents should read Where in the World is Israel to their kids?
It’s different than a lot of Jewish books that are out there, because this book is more modern, more colorful playful style. Most Jewish books that I’ve read are an older, more traditional style. I think it’s time for a change, and that’s why I gave Where in the World is Israel a more modern style.
Where in the World is Israel is available at www.jewishminneapolis.org/israelcenter.aspx. All proceeds support educational Israel travel for teens and young adults in our community!
Want to win a copy of Where in the World is Israel? Leave a comment telling us your favorite thing about Israel!