Tal Shimoni loves his town so much, he wrote a book about it.
“Traveling through Israel with Grandpa Daniel” is the (loosely translated) title of Shimoni’s debut book, an 80-page, 13-chapter Hebrew book for elementary school-age kids about Hod Hasharon, the town where Shimoni grew up and where he’s now raising his two daughters.
Wanting to teach local kids about their city, the industrial engineer wrote the book as an adventure experienced by Grandpa Daniel and his granddaughter Lital after they find a pink note inside their pizza box.
That note is the first clue in a mysterious riddle that takes the pair of amateur detectives on a journey around Hod Hasharon to familiar streets and sites.
Shimoni, 40, was a junior reporter for local papers as a teen but went into engineering and project management. He always dreamed of writing about his city for kids, even before he had his own.
“All the books about Hod Hasharon are a little old. They’re written in the language of adults,” said Shimoni. “I thought it would be nice to write an adventure book that opens itself to the city.”
In the book, Saba or Grandpa Daniel — an amalgam of Shimoni, his father and his grandfather — tells the history of Hod Hasharon as he and Lital work their way through the riddle, each clue bringing them to their next destination until they figure out the mystery at the end of the book.
Shimoni’s research and writing unearthed some facts and places that even he didn’t know. When he finished writing, he turned to illustrator Rami Tal, known for the “Cramel” series and other books, and asked if he’d be interested.
Tal brushed him off, telling him he was too busy, but Shimoni persisted and sent him the manuscript, which ultimately sold the illustrator on the concept.
Tal’s sweet, quirky illustrations are based on photos Shimoni took of the Hod Hasharon streets and sites mentioned in the book.
Shimoni has lived in Hod Hasharon for his entire life, raised there by his parents who moved to the town south of Kfar Saba 45 years ago. Now he lives with his wife and two daughters just a few streets away from where he grew up.
The town was just a village back then, formed in 1964 by the merging of four moshavot established in the 1920s and 1930s: Magdiel, Ramatayim, Hadar and Ramat Hadar.
Back then, it was such a small place that Shimoni’s parents had to drive to Kfar Saba to visit a playground as Hod Hasharon didn’t yet have one. In those days, everyone recognized one another.
“They used to call it the city next to Kfar Saba,” said Shimoni.
Now the population of the upper-middle-class town is more than 60,000, and it is known as the birthplace of several famous Israelis including singer Netta Barzilai, actress Shira Geffen and model Bar Refaeli.
But it’s the town’s familiar streets and sites that are featured in the book, and to that end, Shimoni is donating copies of his self-published novel to the local education department as well as placing copies in Hod Hasharon’s cafes and public lending libraries, housed in defunct public telephone stalls.
He’s already gone on one of the adventures with a class from a local school and plans on doing more of those.
He’s also thinking about the next book in the series, using the same characters but taking them on an adventure in a region of Israel rather than focusing again on a city.
The best part, though, is the response he’s received from readers as well as parents and grandparents who have read the book and headed out into Hod Hasharon for their own adventures, aided by the final page of the book that includes a list of the streets where each clue is located.
“They’ve all been writing me,” said Shimoni, “telling me they love that the book, and especially the illustrations, look like the real thing.”
There really is no place like home.