Interview with Amalia Hoffman, author/illustrator of AFIKOTECTIVE

In Amalia Hoffman’s picture book AFIKOTECTIVE (Kar-Ben Books, 2024), a bear searches for the Afikomen at the Passover seder. AFIKOTECTIVE is an ideal selection for young readers learning about Passover. It’s a fun and unique way to introduce the Passover concepts, and the illustrations, created from a variety of textiles, are delightfully engaging. I am thrilled to welcome back Amalia to learn more about her writing and illustration process.

AFIKOTECTIVE is a fun exploration of Passover with a family of bears and their special elephant. Can you tell me what inspired AFIKOTECTIVE?

When I grew up in Jerusalem, we used to attend the seder over a family’s relative. The hosts used to hide the afikomen (The piece of matzah that is hidden during the Passover seder) in the most obscure places. One year, they hid it in a cactus planter that stood on the balcony. Another year, it was hidden wrapped in a towel by the bath tub. It was really challenging to find. But I was determined because finding the afikomen was rewarded with a small amount of money. At one seder, I stood up and announced: “I’m the afikomen detective!” I guess that this is what gave me the idea for the story.

Amalia Hoffman and Elfie the puppet

As an author/illustrator what came first for this project – the story or the art?

Whenever I work on a new picture book, the story and art come together pretty much in the same time. That is because I “see” the characters in my mind so as I write something like,” Such and such sat down to dinner…” I already have a picture on “such and such” in my head and even of the food on the table. My process is always the same. I get a folder where I can insert pages and as I write, I sketch the picture. Then, I change pages around, I revise the text and also revise the illustrations.

The illustrations for AFIKOTECTIVE are so delightful and engaging. Can you describe the technique you used?

I was always in love with anything pop-up, like pop-up books and cards. But producing a pop-up book is very expensive so I decided to illustrate the book cutting elements so they look like they pop up off the page. I started by cutting elements out of paper and positioning them on boards. Later, I added color to my figures and the background. I started using lighting to see how the shadow will play a role in the final photograph. Then, I incorporated other elements such as string, yarn etc. For the cover, I painted a faux matzah.

What do you hope your readers take away from the story?

If you noticed, I dedicated my book, “To Seekers and finders everywhere.” This is what I hope kids will take away from the story. Always seek, always look harder, never give up and you’ll find what you’re looking for. I also hope that Afikotective will entice kids to participate in the Passover seder and enjoy this wonderful tradition. At the end of the book, I included a project that families could incorporate into their own seder of making Afikotective badges for the kids that search for the afikomen.

Thank you, Amalia!

Amalia Hoffman is an avid storyteller, author and illustrator of children’s books, including The Klezmer Bunch and Purim Goodies. Amalia’s entertaining presentations include props and interactive elements. She lives in Larchmont, New York.

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