Jewish & Israeli History and Culture
Five Books by "HaGina" Publishing House - Jerusalem, 1925-1930
Five children's books published in the series "Stories and Illustrations for Babies", edited by Yehiel Halperin. “HaGina”publishers, Jerusalem,1925-1930.
1. I Have a Pair of Bulls. Based on a folk song according to F. [Alec] Halperin, illustrated by M. [ Moses] Mutzelmacher. .  p.Fair – good condition. Stains (some are dark).Hardcover.The cover is torn and damaged. A few pen scribbles. A handwritten dedication.
2. The Goose and her Chicks. A book by Yehiel Halperin, illustrated by A. Kravtsov , music by Joel Engel. (1924).  p. Good condition. A few stains. Damaged margins and cover.
3. The Tale of the Goat. A children’s book by Shmuel Yosef Agnon, illustrated by Ze’ev Raban. (1924).  p.Good condition. Stains. Damaged margins and cover.
4. Elijah the Prophet. A baby book by Yehiel Halperin. Illustrated by M. Gur Arie, music by Joel Engel. (1924).  p. Good condition. Stains. The edges are slightly damaged.
5. Chatty Natani (Natani Patpetani), by Yehiel Halperin, illustrations by Nahum Gutman. (1930).  p. Good condition. Stains. The cover and the margins are slightly damaged.
From the collection of Arnie Druck.
The most aesthetically pleasing books for children published in the time period we are discussing were created by three entrepreneurs: Shoshana Persitz of ‘Omanut’ publishing house with her “Gamliel” series, Tom Seidmann-Freud who created “Ophir” publishing house, and Yehiel Halperin who published the five books of “HaGina” in Jerusalem.
Halperin used to publish his new poems in his journal “HaGina” and this was his way to encourage the kindergarten teachers to examine the success of the poems in the kindergartens. Soon after, he started publishing his poems in a series of books he edited and published… He also published his beautiful fairy tales in a series entitles “What the moon told me”. This series... although it was aesthetic, typographically speaking, was not illustrated because it was designed to serve first and foremost the kindergarten teachers. In 1925 he published several game songs and stories that targeted toddlers. These stories, in contrast to the previous series were accompanied by illustrations. This series was printed in Jerusalem and was the most elegant series published in Israel in those days. Halperin was also its publisher and he called it ‘HaGina’. 'HaGina' published three song-games: ' Elijah the Prophet ', 'The Goose and her Chicks' and 'I Have a Pair of Bulls’, and two stories: "The Tale of the Goat’ and ‘Chatty Natani’.
' Elijah the Prophet' (Eliyahu Hanavi) is one of the most aesthetically pleasing books published in Hebrew , the wonderful poem expresses the Zionist dream: a boy living in the Diaspora asks to travel to Haifa by sea where Elijah the prophet would take him in his chariot of fire to the Cave of Carmel where he would study Torah in the company of angels. The highlight of the dream is that he would learn Torah in Israel.
Another book that deals with the Zionist dream in the form of a folk tale is a wonderful story by Shmuel Yosef Agnon, "The Tale of the Goat”... the book is illustrated by Ze’ev Raban, a teacher at Bezalel. In contrast to the Eastern world of Gur Arie, Raban chooses the Ashkenazi Diaspora.The old father is dressed as a Hassid and his son wears a capote and a brimmed hat. Only with his arrival to the holy land do we begin to see the Eastern style of buildings, the plants and the Eastern light that was esteemed by the Bezalel artists.
These two books are illustrated in the spirit of Art Nouveau that was popular in the 19th century, a style characterized by bold lines, flat color patches and a combination of Eastern and Western elements, all of which agreed with the ideology of Bezalel.... Since both works are a product of Zionist romanticism and since both express its essence beautifully, there is an ideal match between the illustration style and the written stories. For this reason, I see both of these books as the highlight of Hebrew literature at its best, and it deserves a place of honor in our culture.
The other books published by ‘HaGina’ are also interesting. 'I Have a Pair of Bulls ' is a folk poem written by F. Halperin and illustrated by Moses Mutzelmacher. The rhymes describe teams or pairs that participate in silly deeds: 'I have two bulls and they read books, I have two mice and they sing songs, I have two cats and they carry cots... 'The children who sang this song probably introduced the activity and enjoyed the humor of the silly words.
Another book published by HaGina is ‘The Goose and her Chicks’, written by Yehiel Halperin, composed by Joel Engel and illustrated by Kravtsov. This too is a nice nonsensical song with the characteristics of a folk song that is suitable for activities with children. Kravtsov too was one of Odessa’s artists who did not immigrate to Israel, which means that this book as well was created abroad. Unlike Mutzelmacher’s delicate design, Kravtsov’s characters are large and strong and characterized by bright colors and decorative design.
The last book in ‘HaGina’ series is not dated, but it was probably published in 1929 or 1930.... Only four years separated this book from the rest of the books in the series, but this book seems to express a completely new era. So far we have seen multiple stories about animals and almost none about children. Most of the stories and songs maintained a folk tale character, whether these were animal fables or whether these displayed a nationalistic-Zionistic nature, however, none discussed the everyday life, and only very few stories described real children with real problems and caprices. And here we witness the first story about a real boy, 'The Chatty Natani’ written by Yehiel Halperin and illustrated by Nahum Gutman. Natani is a little boy who enjoys making up sounds and games. He imagines strange situations and asks his father to tell him stories; the father on his part attempts to bring his son back from his wild imaginative world into the gray reality and refuses to tell him stories about unrealistic things... In this story we hear for the first time nonsensical yet natural word games invented by an imaginative child who is a native speaker of Hebrew. Today we know that the story describes the chatting of a real child who grew up to be the linguist Uzzi Ornan [Halperin's son and the brother of Yonatan Ratosh]. This discovery makes ‘Natani Patpetani’ a fascinating story about the childhood of a future philologist, but also it draws our attention to the way children all over the world cope with real and invented words.
Generally speaking, the five books of ‘HaGina’ are essentially different from the books of ‘Gamliel’ series. Unlike books that were published by ‘Omanut’ that were mostly translations of world literature and had only a few original Hebrew books... ‘HaGina’ books were original Hebrew books that included not only an original story but also original music and illustrations. Therefore ‘HaGina’ books should be seen as a very important contribution to Hebrew children's literature. Moreover, all the books of the HaGina were printed by Bezalel Printing House in Jerusalem and not in Russia or Germany. Of all the Illustrators, two were associated with the Odessa artists, but three were local artists - Raban, Gur Arie and Gutman. All three of them were associated with the school of Bezalel - they represent the essence of the new Israeliness. The year 1925 was indeed the turning point when Hebrew publishers moved to Israel." (From: Hebrew Illustrations - The Illustrated Children’s Book, by Ayala Gordon. Tel Aviv , 2005 , pp. 143-153).