Nira Harel (1936-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1936, in Palestine (now Israel); Ethnicity: "Jewish." Education: Tel-Aviv University, B.A., M.A., 1982. Religion: Jewish.
Office—Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature, P.O. Box 10051, Ramat-Gan 52001, Israel.
Teacher, elementary and high school, 1960-72; Israeli Ministry of Education, Jerusalem, 1972-75; Pilon (children's magazine), editor, 1976-78; Masada Publishing House (children's book publisher), Tel Aviv, children's book editor, 1979-82; Am-Oved Publishers, Tel-Aviv, editorial manager, 1983-2000; Zebra Production, Givat-Shmuel, Israel, writer, 2000—. Affiliated with Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature. DafDaf.co.il (Hebrew-language Web site), founder and editor, 2000—.
Ze'ev prize, 1986, for A New Hat; Andersen honor citation, 1994, for One Too Many; Prix Espace Enfants, 1998, for Efshar Lehashir Hoda'ah; citation from Fondation Espace Enfants, 2000, for Mafteach Ha-Lev; Fania Bergstein prize, 2002, for Kaze Chaver.
IN ENGLISH TRANSLATION
It's No Problem!, illustrated by Ora Eytan, Viking Kestrel (London, England), 1984.
Maria's School, translated by David Kriss, illustrated by Mike Eagle, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1992.
Tagidi Eich Kor'im Lach, Hakibbutz Hameuchad (Tel-Aviv, Israel), 1994, translation published as What's Your Name?, Star (New Delhi, India), 1997.
Mafteach Ha-Lev, Zebra Production (Givat-Shmuel, Israel), 2000, translation published as The Key to My Heart, illustrated by Yossi Abulafia, Kane/Miller (La Jolla, CA), 2003.
Sefat Ha-Simanim Shel Noa (title means "Noa's Sign Language"), Keter Books (Jerusalem, Israel), 1979.
Sipurei Ha-Bait Ha-Meshutaf (title means "It Happened in Our Block"), Keter Books (Jerusalem, Israel), 1981.
Sus Ha-Pele Ha-Meofef (title means "The Marvelous Flying Horse"), Masada Publishing House (Jerusalem, Israel), 1983.
Hagadah shel Pesah: 'im shirim ve-sipurim li-yeladim, Am-Oved Publishers (Tel-Aviv, Israel), 1986.
Ima shel Asaf kotevet mikhtavim, Sheva (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1987.
Hitnagshut Hazitit (title means "Frontal Collision"), Am-Oved Publishers (Tel-Aviv, Israel), 1989.
Ma'ase She-Haya Be-Ma'avar Hatzaya (title means "It Happened at the Pedestrian Crossing"), Domingo Press (Jerusalem, Israel), 1989.
Kova Hadash (title means "A New Hat"), Am-Oved Publishers (Tel-Aviv, Israel), 1990.
Ha-Sefer Ha-Gadol Shel Nira Harel (title means "Nina Harel's Big Book"), Am-Oved Publishers (Tel-Aviv, Israel), 1992.
Yeladim ketanim, tsarot ketanot, Sifre hemed (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1992.
Aba aher, Keter Books (Jerusalem, Israel), 1992.
Et Ze (title means "That"), Hakibbutz Hameuchad (Tel-Aviv, Israel), 1993.
Ehad Yoter Midai (title means "One Too Many"), Am-Oved Publishers (Tel-Aviv, Israel), 1993.
Efshar Lehashir Hoda'ah (title means "You Can Leave a Message"), Am-Oved Publishers (Tel-Aviv, Israel), 1994.
Eich Oseh Saba? (title means "What Does Grandpa Say?"), Am-Oved Publishers (Tel-Aviv, Israel), 1995.
Gam Yael (title means "And Yael, Too"), Yediot Aharonot (Tel-Aviv, Israel), 1995.
Lev Katan Gadol (also known as "Herzl"), Reches Press (Even Yehuda, Israel), 1997.
Kookoo (title means "Peek-a-boo"), Am-Oved Publishers (Tel-Aviv, Israel), 1999.
Kaze Chaver (title means "A Friend like This"), Hakibbutz Hameuchad (Tel-Aviv, Israel), 2002.
Namer U-Shmo Ariel (title means "A Tiger Named Ariel"), Hakibbutz Hameuchad (Tel-Aviv, Israel), 2003.
Author of several other books in Hebrew. A book with the English title Where Is the Patience? was published in Arabic by Am Oved Publishers (Tel-Aviv, Israel), 1998.
Harel's books have been translated into German, Danish, Chinese, Portuguese, Korean, and Russian.
Although children's author Nira Harel's work has not been widely translated into English, her work has been familiar to readers in her native Israel since the mid-1970s. In addition to her writing, Harel was also deeply involved for many years in the Israeli publishing industry, where she focused on producing magazines and books she hoped would encourage children to enjoy reading. She committed to publishing the very best material she could find, whether in translation or in the original Hebrew, as Gloria Deutsch explained in the Jerusalem Post Online. A prolific writer, Harel has penned dozens of children's books in Hebrew, and a few of them, in translation, have been warmly received by English-speaking readers.
One of Harel's first books to appear in translation, It's No Problem! presents stories about the daily events that often inspire fear in the minds of young children. In each of the book's short, rhyming lessons, young people face situations ranging from fear of the dark to fear of the family doctor, and learn that the feared thing is really no problem at all.
In The Key to My Heart Harel relates a narrative about a school-aged boy and his father, who together search for the father's missing keys. The keys are important, not just because of the doors they open, but also because the key chain binding them features a picture of the boy, Jonathan, that is precious to his dad. Together, the two follow the father's path backward, searching from shop to shop and making the hunt for the lost keys into a fun father-son experience. The illustrations mark Jonathan's urban neighborhood as distinctly Israeli, but as some reviewers noted, the character of the neighborhood—school, post office, barber shop, even a pizza parlor—and the warm relationship between father and son are common to children everywhere. Horn Book reviewer Susan P. Bloom appreciated "the genuine sentiment" of the story, while a Publishers Weekly contributor called The Key to My Heart a "quietly reassuring" story about "the strength of community [and] the love of family."
As Harel once told Something about the Author: "I was born and raised in Israel, the eldest daughter of Chaya and Benjamin Routshtein, who were Zionists and left Poland in 1932 in order to live in Israel. Their large families were murdered in the Shoa. Like most Israeli children at that time, I never had a grandfather or a grandmother and was not aware of my loss. Years later, when my parents became grandparents of my children, and later on when I became a grandmother myself, I was asked why do I write so often about grandparents and grandchildren. I could not know the exact answer, but I thought that this might be some kind of compensation for what I missed in my childhood.
"I grew up and lived in Tel-Aviv, where I studied social science and humanities. I was married to Aharon Harel for forty-seven years, until his death in December, 2000, and we raised together our four children and four grandchildren. I am now a grandmother of five, from whom I gain lots of pleasure besides new ideas for my writing.
"During thirty-five years, I wrote about fifty books and received several prizes and awards. Most of my stories are focused on family life, especially on children, who face different obstacles, and their dialogue with their parents and other children. Family life is the 'jungle' that attracts me most. In the core of my writings lie love and respect for children, identification with their difficulties, and a deep belief in their capacities. I know how difficult it is to be a child, although we all tend to wish we were children. I know how difficult it is to be a parent, although we would not give it up for anything. And I am aware of the major impact of childhood on one's life.
"I was involved in publishing in Israel for twenty-five years, starting as an editor of a children's magazine, then becoming an editor-in-chief of children's books and later editorial manager in one of the biggest publishing houses in the country. Since 2001 I have been conducting a Web site (in Hebrew) which is aimed at encouraging children to read. Through the site I try to convince children that, even in the time of the Internet, computer games, and television, there is nothing like a good book."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Growing Point, January, 1985, review of It's No Problem!, p. 4376.
Horn Book, July-August, 2003, Susan P. Bloom, review of The Key to My Heart, p. 443.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2003, review of The Key to My Heart, p. 306.
Publishers Weekly, January 27, 2003, review of The Key to My Heart, p. 257.
School Librarian, June, 1985, Marcus Crouch, review of It's No Problem!, pp. 125-126.
CultureDose.net, http://www.culturedose.net/ (June 1, 2004).
Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature Web site, http://www.ithl.org.il/ (July 17, 2003).
Jerusalem Post Online, http://www.jpost.com/ (June 22, 1999), Gloria Deutsch, "Classics for Children."
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