By Leslie Lindsay
A little girl visits Israel with her parents and discovers more than she ever realized at her fingertips, but also about her ancestry.
~Writers Interviewing Writers|Always with a Book~
Spotlight: Children‘s Literature
Whether digging in the dirt, crafting mud figures, or playing with worms, Dabi loves exploring nature and using it to learn about the world around her. ADVENTURE GIRL: Dabi Digs in Israel is a heartwarming family-centered tale of a visit to Israel to visit grandparents. Her parents insist she dress and ‘act like a lady,’ and Dabi reluctantly agrees, but soon finds a kindred spirit in her aunt, who takes her on a new adventure, at the Beit Guvrin National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where children can join an archaeological dig, crawl through caves, and explore ancient ruins.
Dabi relishes in this experience, but soon discovers not everything can be taken home.
Written and illustrated by Janice Hechter, this darling book exemplifies curiosity, discovery, science, culture, and more. Plus, it shows that girls can do anything–even if it means getting a little dirty.
Also, there are many opportunities to extend this activity with other outings (you don’t have to go to Israel), projects, crafts, or additional reading.
Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Janice Hechter to the author interview series:
Janice, welcome! This story is so darling and reminded me much of my now-16-year-old daughter when she was younger. Only, she hates worms. What inspired the story? Was it a character, a place, or something else?
I had been attending a lot of archaeology lectures at a local college and I thought back to when I was studying archaeology as a young child in school. I remember how fascinated I was by that unit. After learning about it at school, I borrowed books on archaeology from the library and even hunted for fossils in my backyard. I knew I wanted to write and illustrate a children’s book on archaeology, but I wanted to tie it in to a story that kids would enjoy. I tried to think of ideas but none of them resonated with me. Then one day, after just walking inside my house, the idea for this story came to me out of nowhere. I knew I had my story!
I love Hadar and how she ‘digs up history.’ Can you give a little glimpse into the life of an archaeologist?
As Hadar’s friend Doda Gili put it,
“A little dirt never hurt anyone.”
That’s a good attitude to have if you’re an archaeologist because one usually ends up filthy at the end of every work day digging. It’s a very muddy, buggy, sweaty, and dirty occupation filled with tough, physical work. But, it’s fascinating work for someone who is curious about how people lived in ancient times.
Like a puzzle, the archaeologist pieces together the life and culture of people from long ago by digging up buckets and buckets of soil, then sifting that soil, (like Dabi did) and looking for any items that ancient people left behind. And as Dabi found out, the archaeologist does not get to keep the finds, but instead cleans, labels, measures, photographs, writes about, interprets, and makes drawings of them. Some of the tools an archaeologist uses are wheelbarrows, shovels, trowels, picks, and brushes. A lot of teamwork, travel, and patience is involved. It’s slow, careful work and it can sometimes take decades to complete the work on one site. Now that’s dedication!
The Beit Guvrin National Park, located in Israel, really captured my interest. I had no idea it existed. What more can you tell us about it?
Famous for its hundreds of stunning, ancient, hand dug caves, Beit Guvrin National Park dates back to Biblical times, when it was a city called Maresha. The 1,250 acre park is the home to artifacts from as long ago as the 3rd Century BCE. Adults, along with children even younger than Dabi, have the opportunity to find out what it’s like to be an archaeologist by digging, sifting, and uncovering history at actual dig sites located inside ancient underground caves. After the dig, tours are offered, where people may crawl inside even more magnificent caves to tour the remains of an olive press, a Roman amphitheater, a large Jewish cemetery, mosaics, public baths, and many other fascinating ruins.
What if you can’t get to Israel? Are there places like this that exist in the U.S.? What other activities would you recommend kids and their adults do that might tap into similar interests?
Although none of them go anywhere near as far back in time as the sites found in Israel, there are many ancient ruins in the United States, which are largely located in the Southwest portion of the country.
One archaeological site that really stands out in the United States is at the Mesa Verde National Park, located in Colorado. This park offers tours of the incredibly preserved homes of the Ancestral Pueblo people, who lived there up to thirteen centuries ago. The park offers a window into the vibrant society of twenty-six tribes. With 600 ancient cliff dwellings and 5,000 archaeological sites there’s plenty to explore.
If you want to dig at a site like Dabi did, but in the United States, the Museum of Western Colorado, in Grand Junction, Colorado is the closest you’ll get. Adults and children as young as five years old may go on a real dinosaur dig.
Many children’s museums offer simulated dig sites for children. Items such as dinosaur bones are hidden beneath the sand for children to dig up, brush off, and identify the type of dinosaur from the bones. This will help prepare them for when they go to a real dig site and kids are always up for the challenge of finding something that’s hidden.
Some towns offer “Young Archaeologist Clubs” and/or “Archaeology Camp,” so people should always be on the lookout for these activities. An all-time favorite of many kids is the “Archaeology Kit,” which may be purchased in a store or online, and is made especially for children. It comes with a buried artifact and all the tools a child needs to dig it up. So, keep digging!
“The story went directly to the heart and life of a child … the illustrations were exciting companions to the text.”
– Ashley Bryan, Author of FREEDOM OVER ME
Since I’m sort of an accidental speech mom, I am curious about the words—the titles—given to family members in ADVENTURE GIRL. Can you tell us more about them, please? Also—were your characters based on people from your life?
Since Dabi’s mom is from Israel, Dabi uses the Hebrew words for “Mom,” “Dad,” “Grandma,” “Grandpa,” and “Aunt.” I also thought it would be a good opportunity for kids to learn a little Hebrew and get more of a feel for life in Israel.
The characters were not based on specific people, but I’m sure I have met or heard stories about people who persevered with creative endeavors despite the discouragement of others. I like the idea that an adult, like Doda Gili, took an interest in and encouraged Dabi’s pursuits. One person has the power to make a huge difference in a child’s life.
Janice, this has been so lovely. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten, or perhaps something you’d like to ask me?
Are you ready to go on an archaeological dig, Leslie?
For more information, to connect with Janice Hechter, or to purchase a copy of ADVENTURE GIRL, please visit:
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Janice Hechter is an award winning illustrator and fine artist who has
exhibited her paintings in various galleries and museums throughout the
country. Her recent book awards include the San Francisco Book Festival
Award and National Best Book Award for Hooray for Heroes! She was a Crystal Kite Award Finalist for The Great Elephant Escape and received a Mom’s Choice Award For Coach Bob and Me. Janice earned her B.F.A. degree in illustration from Carnegie Mellon University. Please visit www.janicehechter.com if you would like to see more of her illustrations and paintings. This is her first book for Alazar Press and her first book as both author and illustrator.
ABOUT YOUR HOST:
Leslie Lindsay is the creator and host of the award-winning author interview series,“Always with a Book.” Since 2013, Leslie, named “one of the most influential book reviewers” by Jane Friedman, ranks in the top 1% of all GoodReads reviewers and has conducted over 700 warm, inquisitive conversations with authors as wide-ranging as Robert Kolker and Mary Kubica to Helen Phillips and Mary Beth Keane, making her website a go-to for book lovers world-wide. Her writing & photography have appeared in various print journals and online. She is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech. A former psychiatric R.N. at the Mayo Clinic, Leslie’s memoir, MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness, & Memory, is currently on submission with Catalyst Literary Management. Leslie resides in the Chicago area with her family.