"I always wanted to write books that would be part of people’s childhood,” says Dina Rosenfeld, the author of well over a dozen children’s books, among them the beloved Yossi and Laibel books and many others.

Like many born writers, Dina says she was writing from the time she learned how to form letters, and her mother saved everything she ever produced. “I loved that satisfaction of writing in rhyme,” she says, the smile evident in her voice.

But writing for herself wasn’t the same as writing for print! When she started teaching preschool over 30 years ago, Dina realized there was very little she could read to the kids in her class. “I was teaching Chumash and parshah, but I had no storybooks to illustrate the themes I was teaching. I was inspired by all the beautiful secular books I’d seen, and I felt, Why can’t we do something like that for our kids?”

With this in mind, Dina wrote a story about a penny looking for a home, following his journeys in the pocket of a boy’s pants before he finally ends up in a tzedakah box, a story that she called The Very Best Place for a Penny. Her students loved it, and her mother was the one who made her write it down and try to get it published. It wasn’t long before it was accepted for publication. “Illustrated children’s books were a newish idea at the time, but the publishers were moving in that direction,” Dina says.

Her next book was A Tree Full of Mitzvos, about a tree in a family’s yard that wants to join the family in the mitzvos it does. Then came A Chanukah Story for Night Number Three, which has a more humorous bent. “Although the book starts off as an adventure, I slipped in some tochen too,” Dina explains. “My father used to love reading it out loud at family Chanukah parties!”

How, though, did the adorable Yossi and Laibel characters, with their big grins and hilarious adventures, come about? Dina says she never intended for the boys to be a series, it just happened that way by accident. “I sat down one day and thought, What’s next? At this point I had my own children, and it seemed to me that sharing was always the most difficult for them. So I thought, how could I make sharing into an interesting story and also funny, so kids could laugh at themselves?”

She wrote half the book in one night, and then she called up a few family members and read it to them over the phone. “I asked each of them, ‘How do you think it should resolve?’ By the next day, I had the answer. It just felt like the book wrote itself.”

After Labels for Laibel, her publisher said, “We need more about these boys,” and soon Yossi and Laibel Hot on the Trail appeared on the scene. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 658)