A Girl all by Herself
Written and Illustrated by: Ora Ayal
Shulamit asked everyone in her household to tell her a story. When no one obliged, a miracle happened – "a story told itself"!
"Ask your father, and he will show you;
your elders, and they will tell you" (Deuteronomy, 32:7)
Which stories are told in your family? Do you often tell "old time" stories, about past events? Do you make up imaginary tales? Or read books with your children? Does your child like to tell you stories, make them up or leaf through books? Do they do so alone, or with you?
Stories allow us to discover another time or place, think differently, or learn about another person's experience. A Girl all by Herself describes a moment when reality meets the imagination, and gives us a glimpse into Shulamit's personal experience through her story.
Proposed Family Activities:
- Shulamit's facial expressions change throughout the book. Perhaps you can look at the illustrations together, and pay close attention to those changes. When does her smile disappear? And when does it reappear?
- In the illustrations depicting the story that Shulamit tells herself, she seems very small compared to the tall buildings and her surroundings. You may want to ask your child for their opinion as to why Ora Ayal chose to draw Shulamit so small, inquire whether they ever feel small, or alternatively, when, if ever, they feel big.
- Perhaps your child could "read" the story to you, even if they cannot yet read the text. You could also act the story out together. Try switching roles: you can play Shulamit, who goes from room to room, asking members of her household to read her a book; while your child can play the other characters, explaining that they are currently unavailable.
- Many children find it difficult to keep themselves busy while waiting for their parents to spend time with them. You may want to use an alarm clock or hourglass to mark the end of your child's "alone time", and plan which book you will read together when it is over.
- Perhaps you could invent your own story, taking turns. One of you begins with "Many years ago in a faraway land…", and you go on taking turns, adding characters and plotline, until you reach the end of the story. You could even write up and illustrate the story, and make a small book out of it.
- A Girl all be Herself is about experiencing both loneliness and togetherness. Having read the book, you may want to discuss feeling lonely with your child. You could tell them that we all feel that way sometimes, and think of coping methods together.
- Do you know any other books written or illustrated by Ora Ayal? You may want to look for more of her books at home or in the public library, and read them alone or together.
- Shulamit asks her household members to read her a story in the afternoon, "just like she always does". Do you also have a certain time for reading books and storytelling? Is it the right time for everyone? Having read this book, you may want to schedule a "family story time", starting a new family tradition.
Enjoy reading and discussing the book together!
Ora Ayal 1946–2011
Ora Ayal wrote and illustrated more than 70 children’s books. She illustrated many books written by top Israeli children’s authors, such as Miriam Roth (Tale of Five Balloons [Maʹase Ba-Chamisha Balonim], Hot Corn [Tiras Ham], and Yael’s House [HaBayit Shel Yael]), David Grossman (the book series on Itamar), and Ronit Haham (Five Witches Went for a Walk [Hamesh Mekhashefot Halkhu Letayel]). Among the books Ora Ayal both wrote and illustrated are: One Tuesday Morning [Boker Bahir Ehad]; Ugbu; and The Great War [HaMilhama HaAdira]. Her illustration style is simple and easily identified, and her well-loved books have been a source of delight for thousands of Israeli children. Ora Ayal has won many awards, among them the Andersen Children’s Literature Award, and the Ben-Yitzhak Award.