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The Heart-Shaped Leaf

Shira Geffen
AGE: 3-6

In Shira Geffen`s beautiful story, not only human beings have a heart, but trees do too; and if the heart symbolizes emotion, then trees, too, must have emotions. Alona finds this out one autumn day when she comes home from kindergarten. She sits down under a tree and eats an apple that her mother gave her. With each bite, a leaf falls off the tree. One of the leaves is different from the others. It is an enchanted, heart-shaped leaf, and it drops onto Alona`s head and clings to her braid. Perhaps it`s because of the leaf that Alona doesn`t get wet when it starts raining. She arrives home completely dry.
Her father, who is waiting for her, plucks the leaf out of her braid and serves her a bowl of lentil soup. The soup is boiling hot and it is still hot several hours later. Does the enchanted leaf have anything to do with it? Alona is hungry and a little upset, but then she gazes into the bowl of soup and sees a tree reflected there. "If you want to drink your soup, give me back my leaf," says the tree, and tells her that the leaf is its heart, a heart in the shape of a leaf. How is she going to give it back? Very simple: Alona must stand at the window and blow on the heart-shaped leaf, and it will find its way back to where it belongs. Alona does what the tree told her to do, blows on the heart, and it floats up and disappears. "Thank you," says the tree, which is still reflected in the soup. Alona takes a spoonful of soup. How tasty it is!

Illustrations: David Polonsky


Even for those who do not exactly need a new book right now, it would be worth their while to take a walk to the neighborhood bookstore and page through this book by Shira Geffen and David Polonsky. The book is so captivatingly beautiful, so meticulously and carefully produced, so technically perfect, so attentive to its wording, that it’s worthy of some kind of supreme seal of quality. After browsing through it, it’s worth finding a quiet corner and reading. Between the narrative and the illustrations, a delicate and moving fantasy is spun … The style of illustration demands a high technical ability, and that indeed is evident in each drawing. Polonsky’s pictures are full of movement, their coloration is enthralling, and they are drawn from many and varied angles … The delicate texture breaks out of each one of them … He also manages to gently convey a very tangible Israeli-ness in his illustrations.  

Yael Dar, Haaretz

Geffen has written a fable-like text with multiple meanings … A parent could help make the child’s questions into thought. This has been achieved by Shira Geffen, modestly, wisely and simply. The illustrations by Polonsky, remarkable in their intricacy and beauty, only bolster the text with warmth, humanity and symbolization.

Lea Aini, Maariv


The cover of the new children’s book, The Heart-Shaped Leaf, catches the eye with its beauty … It is truly captivating. Also inside the book, the illustrations by David Polonsky are sublime. They contain a precise mixture of something that is nearby and familiar and that arouses identification, with something remote and alien, European and cold, intriguing like a fairytale … In The Heart-Shaped Leaf there is beauty, gentleness and delicacy.

Ruta Kupfer, Haaretz


Shira Geffen has captured the fragility of the child’s consciousness, and has sketched her intricate outline without neglecting the poetics of literary description. Depicting a child’s consciousness demands following a child’s moods and also boldly tracking childish thought … Geffen has carried out all of these tasks skillfully and sensitively, and most importantly, with a great deal of respect for children … She truly respects and appreciates the way in which a child thinks. It is as if she wrote the book from inside the secret places of the child that she once was … Depiction of the child’s consciousness upgrades the trivial to the poetic … Unlike many children’s books, in which the illustrations back up the text or simply overwhelm it, Geffen’s text is very vivid even without the illustrations. But the illustrations by David Polonsky are deserving of no less warm praise. They are strong and rich, but at the same time gentle and pleasant.

Yael Israel, Maariv

Unlike most children’s books, in Geffen you’ll find no strict moral or penny philosophy. An associative train of thought, in language as children speak it, touching upon the contemporary nuclear family, which has lost its familiar structure, and remarkable illustrations by David Polonsky, make Geffen’s words into a captivating work of art.

Merav Yudilevich, Ynet


Magical and poetic … Penetrates the heart and wipes away the aches. This is a book of reflections, a kind of journey into the soul, which will provoke your kids too to think about themselves and their surroundings … Superb.

Smadar Shir, Yedioth Ahronoth


This is exactly how I like them, children’s books which have a lovely harmony between the words and the pictures, and in this book by Shira Geffen and David Polonsky, this harmony already finds expression on the cover … Indeed, a great pleasure. Shira Geffen has written a beautiful and delicate story about a sweet and sensitive little girl whose thoughts are original and whose imagination is rich … Written so beautifully and wonderfully illustrated. This is exactly what the pictures for this book, with its special atmosphere, should look like … This book really reaches the reader’s heart.

Osnat Blair, Lihiyot Horim


The loveliest book in town … Raises the level of Hebrew children’s books to a new height.

Rachella Sandbank, Laisha


Geffen is undoubtedly an ocean of talent. This is one of the most beautiful children’s book to ever appear, and not only in Hebrew … Thrilling.

Yaron Fried, Hair

Shira Geffen’s gentle new book is an entirely lyrical creation, and it is apparently her best work so far. In delicate prose she describes the inner world of the heroine … It is a lovely story of a father’s love for his daughter, of hidden wishes,  and of the power of imagination and letting thoughts run free. David Polonsky is today considered to be one of the most important illustrators and animators in Israel. In The Heart-Shaped Leaf he demonstrates his phenomenal talent for designing scenes, for making cinematic compositions, and for emphasizing the emotional aspects of the text via illustration. Try reading the text of the book without looking at the pictures, and to sense the elasticity of the words, the sweep of the story, and notice the precise selection of the words and the way they are ordered. Then read the book with the illustrations and immerse yourselves in the abounding wintery world  that Polonsky has drawn.

Tamar Hochstadter & Yotam Shwimmer, Ynet


The Heart-Shaped Leaf by Shira Geffen is the first children’s book David Polonsky has illustrated, and the combination of the two of them has led to the creation of one of the best works of Israeli children’s literature, certainly in the last decade.

Ronit Rokas, Achbar Hair

A book that is all heart.

Marit Ben Israel, Ir-Ha-Osher


The book is enchanting, simple and enjoyable and heartwarming.

Liat Rotem Melamed, Horim Vi-Yeladim

Title The Heart-Shaped Leaf
Author’s Last Name Geffen
Author's First Name Shira
Language(s) Hebrew, Arabic, Swedish
Genre children-picture bk
Publisher (Hebrew) Am Oved
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 2002
No. Pages 24 pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Al Aleh Ve-Al Alona
Representation Represented by ITHL


Arabic: Nazareth, Merkaz adab al-Atfal al-Arabi fi Israel, 2006
Swedish: Stockholm, Trasten/Tarnan, 2012
English: London, Green Bean Books, forthcoming

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