by Amalia Hoffman

I started writing and illustrating after I lost my parents. That was a painful time in my life. For a long period, I traveled back & forth to Israel to visit my family in Jerusalem—first at my parents’ home, then at the hospital. During these visits I also spent a lot of time walking around the amazing neighborhoods where I grew up. I found myself in memory lane. The olive trees brought back memories of climbing on the trees, gathering olives and playing imaginary games, the cypress trees were my favorites because I used to gather their pinecones & throw on my “enemies,” even the shelters reminded me how the neighborhood’s kids found these very convenient when playing hide & seek. In the old, narrow streets I discovered tiny bookstores that still stocked some of the books I read as a child. Suddenly, something happened…

I felt this urge to connect with my childhood and attempt to write children’s picture books. Since I’m an artist, I also decided to take a chance on illustrating my stories.

The first book I wrote and illustrated was PURIM GOODIES (Gefen Publishing.) It was an adaptation of a “Sholom Aliechem” tale that I read as a child.

Shortly after, I wrote THE KLEZMER BUNCH (Gefen Publishing) because Klezmer music was most popular in every Bar Mitzvah or wedding I attended and I just can’t listen to it and not jump up and dance. Then, I created DREIDEL DAY (Kar-Ben), remembering all these winter Hanukkah days when we played the dreidel games (I mostly lost and my older sister mostly won).

I went on to writing & illustrating books in different genres and also non- Jewish- themed books, but whatever I write, somehow I always discover that connection and ties to my childhood. I believe that once adult, each writer has this treasure box with jewels that might have been dormant for years, but now have popped out and are ready to be polished. By saying that, I don’t necessarily mean that children’s book authors write about their memories, but rather, that our own memories trigger stories because of the child in us.

In my book, MY MONSTERPIECE (Yeehoo Press, March 1st 2021), the protagonist is a child who tries to scare his family and friends by creating monsters; but doesn’t succeed.  I remembered a competition I entered in a children’s magazine to draw a scary witch. Mine obviously wasn’t scary enough because I didn’t win.

I also remembered tearing my artworks in frustration, so I actually included a spread of the protagonist’s torn art.

In my most recent picture book, MASHA MUNCHING (Yeehoo Press, March 1st, 2022), I drew from my memories of spending summers in the country where we laughed as the goats tried to nibble on our cloths and shoes.

The book is illustrated with paper cuts, similar to a technique that I used as a child for making greeting cards.

As children, my sisters and I created a puppet theater. We made the puppets from a mix of shredded newspapers and flour that mom cooked over the stove.

Now, I keep creating puppets that look like the protagonists in my books to engage children during my presentations.

Amalia grew up in Jerusalem, Israel. Her first drawing was black crayon smeared over the entire page. Her mom asked what it was and she said, “a chicken coop.”

“Where are the chickens?” her mother asked.

Amalia answered, “They are all asleep and it’s dark.”

Since then she has been drawing, painting, sculpting and cutting paper constructions. After graduating from Pratt Institute and NYU, she began showing my artwork in galleries and museums. Gene Moore, display director for Tiffany & Co., loved her paper constructions and invited Amalia to create displays for all his windows in New York.

Writing and illustrating children’s books is a window into a child’s fantasy and imagination. It’s also a wonderful way for Amalia to connect with her own childhood and early memories like the chicken coop drawing.

For more on her books, awards, accolades and storytelling, please visit

Amalia is giving away a copy of one of her books and a 30-minute Zoom. These are two separate prizes!

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once below.

Prizes will be distributed at the conclusion of Storystorm.