Sleeping in Haiti

IMAGE OF THE WEEK
Haiti detail© Durga Yael Bernhard

On the morning of Tuesday, January 12th, 2010, I turned on my favorite radio program and sat down to work on one of the illustrations for my forthcoming book: While You Are Sleeping: A Lift-the-Flap Book of Time Around the World.  I was painting a nighttime scene of three children sleeping in Haiti. With a collage of photographs up on my computer screen for reference, I carefully assembled a fictitious image based on visual facts.

Like all the scenes in the book, this one featured a clock, showing the time of day. But I wanted my book to teach about more than just time zones. I wanted it to convey something about what life is like in other parts of the world – how it is different, and how it’s the same.  The three Haitian children in this illustration share a tattered mattress on a floor of packed earth. They sleep in their clothes under bare walls and windows without glass. But despite a standard of living which the average reader of my book will never experience, these children have each other, and they sleep peacefully.

I was just mixing a dark grey for the shadowy hue of the wall when suddenly, a news report interrupted the morning radio program: Haiti had just been hit by a devastating earthquake. I stopped painting, and considered what would happen in an earthquake to a house such as this, built of mud and concrete. That picture would not be so pretty. Clearly, my depiction of Haiti was scarcely grim enough. Yet I’m glad it’s included in the book, among many other scenes showing children engaged in daily activities which may not be familiar to my readers.  I don’t want to shock or frighten kids with too much grim reality, but I do want to pique their curiosity and nudge their awareness.  Above all, I want them to feel the sameness of the children in the book to themselves – no matter how different their homes and routines may be.  We may live in different time zones, but we all share the same earth.  That’s why I was so pleased when While You Are Sleeping was named as a Notable Book for a Global Society by the International Reading Association; and as a Notable Book in the Field of Social Studies by the Children’s Book Council of America.

A good week to all,

D Yael
Yael


http://dyaelbernhard.com

Author / Illustrator of
THE HUNGRY HAGGADAH: A Passover Story in Rhyme
THE JEWISH EYE – 2016 /5776 calendar of art
JUST LIKE ME, CLIMBING A TREE: Exploring Trees Around the World
NEVER SAY A MEAN WORD AGAIN – A Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review;
winner of the Sydney Taylor Award and National Jewish Book Council Award
THE DREIDEL THAT WOULDN’T SPIN – A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah
WHILE YOU ARE SLEEPING – A Children’s Book Council Notable Book
GREEN BIBLE STORIES FOR CHILDREN – Nat’l Green Book Festival Notable Book
A RIDE ON MOTHER’S BACK – An American Bookseller Assoc. Pick of the List
– and more!
Posted in Image of the Week | Leave a comment

Mountain of Fire

IMAGE OF THE WEEK

Mountain of Fire

© DURGA YAEL BERNHARD

This illustration was one of a series, commissioned to illustrate a Chinese folktale titled “The Magic Brocade” for an educational textbook.  In the story, a young man goes on a classic fairy tale quest in which he must face many dangers.  Guided by a wise man who lives in a humble hut at the entrance to a mountain pass, the young traveler learns he must cross the “mountain of fire” in order to reach his goal on the other side – a young princess who bears the magic brocade.

A brocade is a richly-woven silk fabric which is often a vehicle for stories.  I found myself wanting to stylize all the illustrations to make them look embroidered.  Fire is easy to stylize (indeed, it’s harder not to), but embroidery tends to look rather static.  I wanted images that move.  So, I tried to strike a balance.  And in the end, the young man reached his goal without coming to mortal harm, and all was well.

Mountain of Fire 72dpi

How often must we cross a mountain of fire – or a valley of vicissitudes – in order to claim a great treasure?  Children relate instinctively to these powerful metaphors.  I’m privileged to interact with them as an artist, and to give ideas visual form.  I liked this particular story, and I hope my readers did too. Maybe next week I’ll post an image of the brocade . . .

Order Mountain of Fire as a POSTER this week, and get a free greeting card (of the same image)!   $10 for the poster and card, shipping included.  Order your poster here.  Your can also order a six-pack of cards for $15.  Order greeting cards by filling in the title here.

A good week to all,

D Yael
Yael


http://dyaelbernhard.com

Author / Illustrator of
THE HUNGRY HAGGADAH: A Passover Story in Rhyme
THE JEWISH EYE – 2016 /5776 calendar of art
JUST LIKE ME, CLIMBING A TREE: Exploring Trees Around the World
NEVER SAY A MEAN WORD AGAIN – A Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review;
winner of the Sydney Taylor Award and National Jewish Book Council Award
THE DREIDEL THAT WOULDN’T SPIN – A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah
WHILE YOU ARE SLEEPING – A Children’s Book Council Notable Book
GREEN BIBLE STORIES FOR CHILDREN – Nat’l Green Book Festival Notable Book
A RIDE ON MOTHER’S BACK – An American Bookseller Assoc. Pick of the List
– and more!
Posted in Image of the Week, misc | Leave a comment

The Survivor’s Star

IMAGE OF THE WEEK
The Survivor's Star© Durga Yael Bernhard

In honor of Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Memorial Day, I offer this dark painting.  The Survivor’s Star was painted in 2008 as a study for a larger painting titled Regina’s Star.  Both paintings show my grandmother, Regina Loewe, contemplating the life she left behind – and the family she never saw again – when she emigrated to New York from Hungary at the age of 18.

My grandmother had a characteristic way of holding her hand to her cheek, especially when she was deep in reflection, often covering one eye with fingers pressed together. Sandwiched between the orthodoxy of Eastern Europe and the new world of America, she survived the Holocaust, but lost her faith and severed her connection to Judaism after her entire family perished.

My grandmother never spoke of what happened in the past, but her silence made a deep impression on me as a child. Deep within her, the roots of her heritage continued to live and were passed on. Three generations later, those roots have emerged into the light of day through her grandchildren and great grandchildren. The yellow star that her kin were forced to wear to their deaths is transformed here into a window into the soul that shines with new light.

 Order The Survivor’s Star as a POSTER this week, and get a free greeting card (of the same image)!   $10 for the poster and card, shipping included.  Order your poster here.  Your can also order a six-pack of cards for $15.  Order greeting cards by filling in the title here.

A good week to all,

D Yael
Yael


http://dyaelbernhard.com

Author / Illustrator of
THE HUNGRY HAGGADAH: A Passover Story in Rhyme
THE JEWISH EYE – 2016 /5776 calendar of art
JUST LIKE ME, CLIMBING A TREE: Exploring Trees Around the World
NEVER SAY A MEAN WORD AGAIN – A Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review;
winner of the Sydney Taylor Award and National Jewish Book Council Award
THE DREIDEL THAT WOULDN’T SPIN – A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah
WHILE YOU ARE SLEEPING – A Children’s Book Council Notable Book
GREEN BIBLE STORIES FOR CHILDREN – Nat’l Green Book Festival Notable Book
A RIDE ON MOTHER’S BACK – An American Bookseller Assoc. Pick of the List
– and more!
Posted in Image of the Week, Jewish Learning | Tagged , | Leave a comment