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).
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with editor/art director, & CBA Director Mira Reisberg PhD who is handing her Mondays over to awesome former now traditionally pubbed students to widen their audience.
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 will feature Libyan American author Koloud Tarapolsi sharing wonderful diverse books.