Interview with Maya Shleifer, illustrator of LIGHTS IN THE NIGHT

I’d like to welcome Maya Shleifer to chat about her illustrations for the board book LIGHTS IN THE NIGHT (Green Bean Books, 2021) written by Chris Barash. This charming book portrays a family celebrating a quiet, yet beautiful seaside Shabbat. The soft-toned illustrations depict the darkening night sky and numerous sources of light as the family prepares for Shabbat. The art features glow-in-the-dark elements that will delight young readers. I am happy to share Maya’s process, as well as insights from Michael Leventhal, publisher of Green Bean Books.

LIGHTS IN THE NIGHT is a gentle rhyming story of getting ready for Shabbat. The outdoor seaside setting is unique. What location were you referencing in your illustrations? 

I imagined this story happening in South France or Italy. The foggy days often don’t happen in Israel, so it felt like another country near the Mediterranean sea. Small details from different places inspired me, but there was no specific reference.

Maya Shleifer

What were your thoughts when you first read the manuscript?

I thought it was a very unorthodox approach to the Shabath tradition, and this is how I prefer to celebrate it. Also, the conjunction between nature themes and Jewish traditions was very appealing to me.

Tell me about the glow in the dark concept in LIGHTS IN THE NIGHT. How did you incorporate this idea into your work?

Maya: The idea belongs to the publisher.

Michael Leventhal (publisher): I’m relatively new to children’s book publishing but I’ve been in the publishing business for more than twenty years, so it is nice to keep trying new things. I’ve never had the opportunity to release anything with glow-in-the-dark ink before, and this seemed to be the perfect book. I can’t remember exactly, but I think I discussed it with the author, who thought it was a good idea, then I check the logistics with my production manager. In fact, despite more than forty years in the business, this was his first time with glow-in-the-dark ink too. I don’t know of any other Shabbat book that has used this element, so I hope it helps it stand out a little.

I can say that, when first advance copies arrived at my house one morning, the first thing I did was race upstairs, dive into my bed and pull the duvet over my head and the book to see how it worked!

What medium did you use for the illustrations?

I use gouache and coloring pencils. 

Thank you, Maya and Michael!

Maya Shleifer is a multidisciplinary illustrator and designer. Born in the former USSR, she immigrated to Israel at the age of 16. After completing her studies at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, she worked as a designer and art director for various publications. She soon began showcasing her own editorial illustrations, and at about the same time, she started work on her first children’s books. Today her titles have wide recognition in Israel, and are exhibited in the country’s major museums.

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