Collaboration on PLANTING FRIENDSHIP: PEACE, SALAAM, SHALOM -- Author Interview with Shirin (nee Rahman) Shamsi
By Koloud 'Kay' Tarapolsi
PLANTING FRIENDSHIP: PEACE, SALAAM, SHALOM is a picture book about three girls from different faiths who develop a bond over their similarities. What is unusual about this story is that it was co-written by three authors, Shirin Rahman (Shamsi), Callie Metler and Melissa Stoller, each from the faiths represented in the book. It was illustrated by Kate Talbot.
Shirin (nee Rahman) Shamsi is one of the authors, writing about Savera, a Muslim child. She stopped by today to tell us the joy she discovered in sharing her world in an interfaith children’s book.
As salaam alaykum Shirin, what an honor to have you here to discuss your latest children’s book.
Wa-alaykum Assalaam, peace be with you as well, sister. The honor is mine. Thank you so much for having me, and thank you for appreciating our little book, that has a big message.
I just got my copy recently of PLANTING FRIENDSHIP and it was such a beautiful read. I especially loved how the illustrations showcased the religions.
Yes, honestly, I was blown away by the illustrations. I love how fun, bright, and detailed they are. The specific details that Kate puts into each spread, just moves me profoundly. I tear up every time.
I love how the Muslim home is shown as an intergenerational space with the Dadima (grandmother) playing such an important role in the story.
In Muslim immigrant families it is quite common to have a grandparent living in the home. My own children had their grandmother with them throughout their childhood. It is a blessing for both the child and grandparent. This inter-generational bond between Savera and her Dadima, her paternal grandmother, is not only shown in the illustrations, but also conveyed in how Dadima comforts Savera when she is nervous about her first day of school. Dadima gives Savera a pendant, telling her it is “A prayer for protection” known as the Ayat ul Kursi, the Quranic verse of the Throne. It gives Savera courage when she wears on a pendant.
The images of Savera’s home also has many references to decor that are displayed in a Muslim home.
This picture is so special. Kate has put in small details you would see in a Muslim home: the prayer rug, the Adhan clock, the Islamic lunar calendar on the wall and calligraphic art. One specific item on the bookcase is the Holy Quran on a book stand called a Rehl. My grandmother had a wooden Rehl, carved from one piece of rosewood, that she carried with her as she fled with her family, during the Partition of 1947. It has been in our family since. When my mother emigrated to the UK, she brought it with her. She gifted it to her first grandchild. The Rehl is now in my nephew’s home in Canada, after having traveled across three continents.
The details are not just stunning inside the homes, but the landscape in the town carries the faith of the girls.
Kate has created this beautiful spread of the town where Savera, Molly and Hannah live, where we see a mosque, a synagogue, and a church. Every page in this book is detailed and so well thought out. I’m so impressed with Kate’s talent and can’t wait to see her illustrations on our next picture book collaboration, BUILDING BRIDGES: PEACE, SALAAM, SHALOM, releasing in October 2022.
What would you say was your favorite part about working with other authors of different faiths?
Definitely our growing and deepening friendship! We have really bonded, whilst sharing and learning more of each other’s heritage and faith traditions. I feel the more I have learned about Callie, Melissa (and Kate too), the more I realize how similar we are. Just as we see the friendship growing between Savera, Molly and Hannah – and that is the essence of our collaboration. It has been a work of joy and friendship.
Jazak Allah khair sister for stopping by to chat about your latest release, Planting Friendships. I know that it will be well loved by children (and adults) around the world.
Thank you so much Koloud. It was so very kind of you to have me. Yes, I really hope that this little book will bring about wonderful things. I hope it sends ripples of interfaith understanding and appreciation into the world. For we are all in this tiny, precious, and beautiful world together. This “mote of dust suspended on a sunbeam” we must unite in friendship, for the sake of all humanity. It is the only way we will survive.
Peace, Salaam, Shalom.
For a chance to win a copy of PLANTING FRIENDSHIPS (open to US address only please).
It’s time to get festive…
By Sharon Giltrow
It’s beginning to look a lot like the festive season... and what better way to celebrate than with a fun and hilarious festive-theme book. JINGLE BELLY, written by Jacinta Froud is a perfect festive book, to read now and the whole year through
Written by: Jacinta Froud
Illustrated by: Gabriella Petruso
Published by: Larrikin House , November 2021
Eddie is a Wonder Dog - this is absolutely true, but Eddie likes to make a mess and he’s pretty naughty too! When Eddie gets loose on Christmas Eve, there’s no telling what kind of mischief he’ll get up to. Can he be caught before he ruins everyone’s Christmas or will he surprise everyone with a very special Christmas treat?
Let’s take a sneak peek inside JINGLE BELLY at some of Jacinta’s favourite funny pages and what make them so funny…
– “Miss Pritchard getting bumped in the rear is funny to me because I had a very lovely teacher called Miss Pritchard and the likeness to her in the illustration is uncanny, a complete coincidence by the illustrator Gabriella Petruso as she was not aware of this anecdote! A Corgi wearing a silly hat is funny!”
Miss Pritchard, and the reader, are surprised when Eddie bumps into her. The illustrations are super funny too. Look at that festive jumper Miss Pritchard is wearing.
J- “I love the element of surprise or intrigue that this spread elicits. There are some visual clues for the readers to decipher. What is in that bag? Why is Dad wearing a peg on his nose? What is going to happen next?”
Here Jacinta is pushing the joke of what is going to happen as far as she can, without telling the reader exactly what it is. This spread is also a great example of using the power of a page turn… The reader will want to find out what happens.
These are just two funny spreads from JINGLE BELLY there are many more laughs inside.
Remember books make great gifts for the festive season. The sharing of those books with your loved ones is an even better gift.
What are some of your favourite festive season books?
Well, that’s it from me this month. Jacinta’s book has put me in the festive mood, so I’m off to put up some decorations.
See you in December with another great Aussie book.
Share a laugh, and connect with someone today.
For a chance to win a copy of JINGLE BELLY,
Sharon Giltrow grew up in South Australia, the youngest of eight children, surrounded by pet sheep and fields of barley. She now lives in Perth, Western Australia with her husband, two children and a tiny dog. Sharon has taught for all of her career. Previously a teacher of children who are hearing impaired and Deaf-Blind, she now teaches young children with Developmental Language Disorder. Her humorous debut PB, BEDTIME DADDY! released May 2020 through EK books. Sharon’s even funnier follow up PB, GET READY, MAMA! Is due to be released through EK books in April, 2022. Her third PB, LET’S GO SHOPPING, GRANDMA! is due to be released through Dixi Books in 2022. SAMARA RUBIN AND THE UTILITY BELT, book one in Sharon’s early MG series – THE UTILITY BELT, will be released in 2022 through Clear Fork Publishing. With book two TOBY KING AND THE UTILITY BELT to follow.
Giving Thanks for a Year of Writing
by Bryan Patrick Avery
Well, this year has flown by. It’s already November, which mean that Thanksgiving is coming. While I’m not a fan of the historical context of the holiday, I do like the idea of setting aside some time to give thanks for the many blessing in my life. One of those blessings is my writing career.
This month, I’d like to share with you an exercise in gratitude, especially for writers. Writing is a difficult undertaking. It involves a lot of rejection and uncertainty. Giving thanks can help you look back at the past year and find the positive moments that will serve as the motivation to keep going. Each of these questions is focused on a different aspect of writing so try to answer them all.
1. What accomplishment are you most thankful for?
It can be easy, sometimes, to gloss over what we’ve accomplished. Take a moment and think about what you’ve accomplished this year.
2. What challenge or adversity have you encountered that you are most thankful for?
Why be thankful for a challenge or adversity? Facing or overcoming challenges is a part of life. When we don’t let them stop us from moving forward, we win.
3. Name an author whom you are thankful.
So many authors (myself included) have relied on the kindness and support of other authors as they’ve built their careers. Remembering to be thankful for those who’ve helped us also reminds us to help others.
4. Name someone in the publishing industry (other than an author) for whom you are thankful.
Just like we get help from other authors, we can get help from industry professionals like agents, editors, etc. Whether you’re traditionally published, self-published, or pre-published, I’m guessing you can think of at least one agent or editor who has provided guidance, insight, or encouragement.
5. What is something you are thankful you said “yes” to?
Saying yes might take you out of your comfort zone but that can help you develop. Have you said yes to something that really brought you joy or a new opportunity?
6. What is something you are thankful you said “no” to?
Just like there’s value in saying “yes”, there’s also value in saying “no”. We can’t do everything and trying to do everything can be detrimental to our physical and mental health. Give yourself credit for saying “no” once in a while.
7. What idea or inspiration are you thankful for?
Ideas are what make the world go ‘round for writers. What’s that one idea or brainstorm you had this year that really got you excited? Note it and remember the feeling it give you. It will help you recognize (and appreciate) other brainstorms like it in the future.
Well, that’s my thanksgiving list for writers. I hope you find it helpful. Grab some paper and start making your list. I’d love to see some of your answers in the comments.
That’s all for this month. Happy writing and have a magical month!
At the age of 7, Bryan Patrick Avery discovered a love of reading and mysteries after receiving his first Bobbsey Twins Mystery Book. Today, he is an award-winning poet and author of books for children. His middle-grade story, “The Magic Day Mystery”, appears in SUPER PUZZLETASTIC MYSTERIES, an anthology from HarperCollins and the Mystery Writers of America. His debut picture book, THE FREEMAN FIELD PHOTOGRAPH, illustrated by Jerome White, was published by Clearfork Publishing/Spork. His early reader series, MR. GRIZLEY’S CLASS, illustrated by Arief Putra, is available now from Picture Window Press. He is the 2021 recipient of the SCBWI Work in Progress Award for his chapter book mystery THE ROBOT IN THE LIBRARY.
Bryan serves on the board of directors of the Northern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and is a 2021 Amplify Black Stories Fellow, a joint program presented by the Brown Bookshelf and the Highlights Foundation. Bryan lives in Northern California with his family.
by Melissa Stoller
November in New York brings Thanksgiving – a holiday of gratitude. Here are some prompts to bring an intentional mindset of thankfulness into your writing life:
1) Think about a time when you experienced gratitude . . . note specific details about that situation. How did you feel? Were any of your five senses involved? For example, maybe you tasted a delicious pumpkin pie, watched a sunset, heard a concert, touched a feather, or smelled garlic roasting. Try to insert those emotions or senses into a current work in progress.
2) Do you recall any memories from celebrating Thanksgiving as a child? Perhaps the memories are joyful or maybe they are not. Do you remember specific food, decorations, rituals like an after dinner stroll or football game, or family members celebrating with you? Try to incorporate some of those memories into a story idea.
3) Go through photos and remember any situations where you felt grateful for a person or an occasion. Perhaps the photos will be from your childhood or maybe they relate to a more recent moment. Do any pictures spark a story idea? Maybe a photo of a family pet will inspire a first line or story arc, or photos with friends will jumpstart a new manuscript draft.
4) Try keeping a gratitude journal. Start small by jotting down one thing you are grateful for each day relating to your life in general and your writing world specifically. Perhaps inspiration will strike as your review your notes over time and add to your list.
I hope these prompts help bring gratitude into your writing practice and perhaps into a new story idea or plot point. Let me know in the comments! And Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate.
Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection - Return to Coney Island, and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush; Ready, Set, GOrilla!; and Sadie’s Shabbat Stories. Planting Friendship: Peace, Salaam, Shalom (co-written with Callie Metler and Shirin Rahman, illustrated by Kate Talbot), released from Clear Fork Publishing on October 19, 2021. Melissa is a Blogger and Course Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, a volunteer with SCBWI/MetroNY, and a founding member of The Book Meshuggenahs resource group. In other chapters of her life, Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer and editor, and early childhood educator. She lives in New York City with her family, and enjoys theatre, museums, and long beach walks.
CONNECT WITH MELISSA:
Find the Kid-Friendly Connection That Makes Kids Want to Know and Embrace New Heroes
1. Start with a moment from your main character’s childhood that establishes the dream that he or she will pursue during the story.
This is the most common approach and the one I’ve taken with most of my books. You’ll see on the opening page a kid that a child can relate to, longing for a goal that the reader will root for the character to achieve.
2. Find a kid-friendly image or association:
3. Find a universal theme to which kids can relate:
Manjhi Moves a Mountain and Dear Mr. Dickens both start with the main characters as adults, but both connect with children that embrace the universal theme of doing something about an unfair situation.
Manjhi feels the unfairness of the children of his village being unable to go to school, the sick being able to get to a doctor, the elderly and infirm struggling to get to markets because there is a 300-foot mountain separating his village from the one that has all those things. He comes up with a solution and perseveres, despite ridicule, until he succeeds in making his community better for everyone. Kids and adults alike respond to the message that we can all move mountains – or make a positive difference in our world -- if our hearts are big enough.
The one thing all three methods have in common is that they get kids invested in the main character or characters from the first page, wanting to know what happens next. You have to keep a child’s attention for anything else in the story to matter.
Facebook: Nancy Churnin
Facebook: Nancy Churnin Children’s Books
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with awesome multi-published former student Shirin Shamsi who will be focusing on Muslim and cultural kidlit.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature STEM, STEAM & SEL obsessed author Kourtney LaFavre sharing delightfully dorky, quirky, and fun info.
And 5th Mondays we'll be taking a break