Barnboksveckan gäster 2015: Yannets Levi

Yannets Levi grew up in a family of storytellers, and wants his readers to be absorbed by the story, regardless if they are young or old.

 Why did you become a children’s books author? Where you interested in stories and pictures as a child, or was it your own child that needed stories, or is it a way to make the world a better place to live in?

I think the answer to all these questions is Yes. As a child I loved stories. I grew up in a family of storytellers. My father used to tell us stories and also my aunts and uncles. The moments of listening to a story, totally absorbed by it were the best for me. I wish to go back to those moments of being carried away by a story in my writing. I wish to write stories that will have the same effect on the reader.
But my first book for children started by mistake. I was babysitting my nieces and nephews and one of them kept crying and sobbing – she wanted her parents not to go. But they went and she kept crying. I tried to explain that they’ll soon come back. I tries to offer all kinds of thing – games, milk, candy. But she kept crying. I didn’t know what to do. But then I found myself saying, “Do you want to hear how Uncle Leo got stuck on a cloud”? The moment my niece heard these words she stopped crying, looked at me and said: yes! So I had to tell her a story right away. She enjoyed the story very much and so did her siblings. I went back hope happy. The next day, talking to my brother, I realized his kids don’t stop talking about Uncle Leo. And the next time I came for a visit they demanded that I’ll tell them another adventure. And so I found myself telling them adventures and eventually I wrote and published them in books. I’m not sure a children’s book can make the world a better place, but it can make some things in the world better. I don’t try to convey any specific message in my writing for children, but then there are things that disturb me and I do write about them. It might be injustice for foreigners, wars, violence and other things and I deal with them in my writing in ways that show their absurdity. Uncle Leo is never violent, although he fights demons, monsters and other creatures. He’ll always solve his problem in the most creative manner. 
Do you write also for adults?

Yes, I do. Last august my third book for adults was published. It a novel titled Living Hope. I must admit that my writing for children had and still has tremendous influence on my writing for adults. I realized that I wish to write books for adults, that we’ll make the readers totally absorbed in them – the way children read stories they love.

Do you believe that children’s books should be read by grown-ups as well?

Uncle Leo says in the 2nd book of the series that “grown-ups are children in the shape of grown-ups.” Every one of us is a child that grew up. Therefore we can always enjoy good children’s literature. Other than that, I think that sometimes children’s book are even more sophisticated and layered that books for adults. There are things that one cannot write in children’s books straight forward. Therefore children’s literature is sometimes encoded. I feel children’s literature is a vessel that can carry a variety of meanings that can be discovered by the reader. Therefore when a grown-up reads a good children’s book he or she will probably find all kinds of hidden messages that make the reading enjoyable.

Do you remember when and where your first text was published and how it felt?

My first book was a collection of picturesque short stories titled Subterranean Water Stories. If I’m not wrong it was published in 2003. Of course I was very happy when it was out and I felt that maybe this is my first step of becoming a writer. And I wished that maybe one day I’d be able to dedicate most of my time to my art. Fortunately, the dream came true. 

Do you have a favorite among your books?

Oh, it’s like asking a mother which of her children she loves most. I love all my books, but each books gave me a different experience, a different emotional journey. Each book met a different need in my soul.

What are you working on right now?

I always work on a few things at the same time. So among other things, I currently work on a new children’s book that will open a new series and tells the story of a very poor kid, based on my father’s childhood. I work on a script for a feature film and on a YA TV series. And next year a staged play of Uncle Leo’s Adventure will premier in Israel.