A Beautiful World, illustrated and told by Paul Kor, written by Yael Gover - sent by Pajama Library
My mother’s voice reading me a bedtime story is one of my most treasured early-childhood memories. Sometimes I would stay awake until after the last page had been read, disappointed it was finished. Sometimes my mother and I would talk afterwards and, after having asked her plenty of questions, I would ask her to read it to me again. Other times, I’d fall asleep mid-story. But almost always, after the story, in my dreams, the images from the book would come to me as I continued to journey using my imagination. An imagination that develops and grows more and more over time. There is no doubt that these storytime moments were helping me become who I am today. It’s quite possible that already back then, the notion that ‘no dream is out of reach’ had been planted in my mind.
And why am I telling you all this? because I have had the privilege to partner with the Pajama Library, which sent with me the first children’s book in Hebrew, which I read to the children of Israel. I read the story entitled A Beautiful World, which is so fitting for the Rakia Mission and which is also so evocative of my early childhood: “I’ve got paint and a brush, and with them I can create a perfect world: I can create a sky and water, a Moon, a lush garden and stars above - but what can I add? And what is missing? And what is hidden in each page?” These words are taken from the author Paul Kor (1), who takes his audience of children on a journey of color and a love of nature and the creatures that fill it. He invites them to create the world, using the paints and the paintbrush, beginning with the dark black and arriving finally at magnificent color, trees, flowers, animals and surprises.
And isn’t this exactly what we are all doing here - the astronauts, the space scientists and makers of the devices that allow life in space? All on board a station not anchored to solid ground, and which - like a star - is traveling at high speed orbiting Earth 16 times each day. We reach for other stars, we wish to create life there too, with trees and flowers and other surprises.
When I came on board the Space Station I said that this was the first time Hebrew had been spoken there. But to read a magical Hebrew story for tens of thousands of children, children who will be listening to it for the first time and for whom it will open a door to their imagination – indispensable for child development and for shaping their character – encouraging them to carry on the quest for creation and conversation, that is what excites me the most. I consider this a mission: to make my own contribution toward exposing children to the possible worlds of imagination, hidden among the pages of books - with the help of the Pajama Library.
For any parents not yet familiar with it: The Pajama Library is a program intended to instill the love of reading and books in the hearts of children, and to stimulate discussions of Jewish-Israeli values and heritage within the family and in educational settings. The program, which was founded in Israel by the Keren Grinspoon Israel Foundation, is based on the successful PJ Library program, which provides thousands of books relating to Jewish culture to families in communities throughout the United States, Canada and other countries.
The library operates in hundreds of thousands of kindergartens and first and second grades in State, State-Religious and Special Education schools. Each month a new book is introduced to participants in the Program and after conducting a creative, experiential activity related to the book, each child is given a copy to take home as a gift to the family library. The books include suggestions for creating a conversation and play dynamic with the parents, thereby deepening the understanding of the underlying values in the book.
The Pajama Library has set itself a formidable challenge, consistent with the vision of the Ramon Foundation – to create a broad cultural common ground among children and families in Israel. Together we will succeed – after all, no dream is out of reach.
Yours, shortly before bidding farewell to the International Space Station,
(1) Paul Kor, 1926-2001, Israel- Artist, Illustrator, and Author - was born Paul Kornovsky in Paris, France to a family which immigrated there from Poland. He grew up in a secular Jewish home. His father, Isaac, was murdered in the Holocaust in Auschwitz. Paul the boy was smuggled out during the war, together with his brother, to Geneva Switzerland, where he remained as a refugee in a refuge for Jewish children until after the war.
A Beautiful World was told and illustrated by Paul Kor. It was written by Yael Gover and joins a long list of other books by Paul Kor, including Caspion the Little Fish, The Elephant who Wanted to be the Best, Little Frog, Go to Sleep - all of which have become indispensable in any children’s library.