In Orit Bergman’s picture book SIMON SAYS GOODNIGHT (Amazon Crossing Kids, 2023), translated by Annette Appel, a boy named Simon isn’t ready to go to sleep. Tucked in bed and inspired by the game Simon Says, young Simon uses his imagination to explore various inner dream worlds with his toys. Featuring ethereal jewel-toned illustrations, SIMON SAYS GOODNIGHT is a perfect bedtime pick. I look forward to learning more about Orit’s writing and illustration process.
Tell me a bit about your inspiration for Simon Says Good Night.
The book started, as many of my works, from an illustration I made of a boy riding a grasshopper. I knew there was a story hiding there but I had to wait for it to appear. On one of my son’s birthdays, we played Simon Says with the kids. It’s one of my favorite games because it involves movement, attention, imagination, and humor. In Hebrew the game is played with the phrase “The King Says,” and the birthday boy is the king. One of my son’s instructions was “close your eyes and go to sleep.” I watched the kids cuddle themselves to sleep–and bingo, there was my story.
What is your illustration process?
Since I write and illustrate my books, I start by making a dummy book containing the text and very rough illustrations. This is the most creative and difficult stage of the work. I try to play with the pace of the turning of the page to create surprise and interest, to transfer as much of the story as I can to the images (which the children read) and create interesting relationships between the text and image. This phase can be a very long one; I have about ten different book dummies for Simon Says Good Night. Once I’m happy with the flow of the story and the sketches I look for the perfect style to fit the specific story. In this book I was interested in making a mix between lines and shapes. I explored monoprints with acrylic colors to create the textures of the environment, used pencil lines to create the characters, and then scanned all the parts into the computer. The fun part was playing with the different layers to create depth and composition.
As an author/illustrator, what comes first for you – the story or the images?
Some of my books begin with an image (like Simon Says Goodnight) and some start with a sentence I hear on the train ride, a dream, or a game I play with my kids. I try to stay alert for stories in my everyday life and keep a small notebook with me to write them down before I forget them.
What do you hope young readers take away from Simon Says Good Night?
I think going to sleep is a tricky part of the day. As parents we can help our children in many aspects of their lives, but falling asleep is something kids need to learn to do by themselves. The scary part is letting go. We try to help them by singing (I personally sang the same verse for years, which led to myself falling asleep rather than my child) or reading. In this book I offer the kids a way to take control over the process by rehearsing it with their toys and turning it into a game. Simon uses humor, imagination, and play–the three “superpowers” of childhood to take control over his falling asleep process. Those three themes appear in all my books, they are the powers of the weak, which are available to every child, and help them navigate tough times in childhood, a time when one gets to decide so little about one’s life.
Thank you, Orit!
Orit Bergman is an Israeli author and illustrator. She was born in Jerusalem and lives and works in Kerem Maharal, Israel. She writes and illustrates children’s books, adapts her stories for the theater, and frequently meets children across the country. Her books have been published in Israel, France, China, and the United States. She studied at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, where she now heads the illustration-studies department. Learn more about the author at www.oritbergman.com.
Annette Appel is a translator of books for young readers and truly enjoys the challenge of making stories written in Hebrew accessible to English speakers. She recently translated Bear and Fred: A World War II Story, by Iris Argaman and illustrated by Avi Ofer. Annette grew up in Oak Park, Michigan, and now lives with her family on a kibbutz in northern Israel.