Rifka Takes a Bow, written by Betty Rosenberg Perlove, illustrated by Cosei Kawa (Kar-Ben) is a charming story that introduces young readers to the history of Yiddish Theatre. Rifka’s parents are performers and through a series of events, Rivfka find herself on stage! The world of Yiddish Theatre is a colorful, vibrant part of Jewish history and Rifka’s adventures bring this slice of history to life! Rifka Takes a Bow is the recipient of the Sydney Taylor Book Award SIlver (Honor) Award for Younger Readers.The backstory of Rifka Takes a Bow makes the book even more interesting. The author, Betty Rosenberg Perlov, drew from her own life experiences growing up in New York during the height of Yiddish theatre’s popularity. Her mother was an actess and her father had a weekly Yiddish radio show. Betty is 96 and this is her first book.Betty was not available for an interview but her success with Rifka is an inspiration to all! Mazel Tov, Betty!
The illustrations in Rifka Takes a Bow are the perfect pairing for the text. Bold, vibrant, and engaging, Cosei Kawa pulls readers in with his stunning visuals. Cosie lives in the ancient capital of Tokyo, Kyoto. He uses a variety of mediums including acrylic, watercolor, collage and digital effects. He won the Macmillan Prize for Children’s books in 2007 and has had exhibitions in Tokyo. I’m so pleased to have the opportunity to interview Cosei for the Sydney Taylor Book Award blog tour.
What were your thoughts when you first read the manuscript for Rivka Takes a Bow?
I had a foresight that the book will be special. An individual life is described vividly and, at the same time, the great historical context is indicated in the background. The independence of women and the cultural diversity are outlined by the 96 year-old author as a living witness. What interested me was that “A Bow” is the spine of the book according to my cultural background.
Did you need to do research to make sure your illustrations were accurate?
To seek the historical background of this theatre, I did research and interviews in addition to collecting visual resources. Based on the research, I tried to dramatize the images so that children nowadays could enjoy and be excited by them.
Can you share a bit about the techniques you used in the illustrations?
I drew the outlines with pencil and painted the surfaces with watercolour and acrylic paint. They were then scanned digitally and photo-collaged with traditional patterns and textures. The printed images were hand painted with acrylic paint where necessary. The process was sometimes repeated again and again.
What does winning the Sydney Taylor Honor Award mean to you?
Receiving praise is a genuine pleasure. Thank you so much for this honour! I hope children will know “Rifka Takes a bow” by this award and enjoy reading it. It gives me confidence that there are people who empathize with my drawings. Also, I’m excited about what kind of changes will occur around me.
What’s next for you?
Narratives will attract my interest throughout all of my life. From great narratives to individual stories, I’d like to illustrate themes such as time and fate. Nonsense is also tempting as disassembled narratives.
I’d like to imagine the drama on the line between ordinary life and extraordinary experience. Foods / clothes / everyday life / festivals / shows / magic / mysteries.
Congratulations, Cosei! Thanks for joining the blog tour.