Review: Planting Friendship: Peace, Salaam, Shalom
Planting Friendship: Peace, Salaam, Shalom
by Callie Metler, Shirin Rahman, and Melissa Stoller, illustrated by Kate Talbot
Clear Fork Publishing
Category: Picture Book
Reviewer: Cynthia Levinson
Planting Friendship: Peace, Salaam, Shalom by Callie Metler, Shirin Rahman, and Melissa Stoller tells the interlocking stories of three girls—Molly, who is Catholic, Savera, who is Muslim, and Hannah, who is Jewish. The girls are neighbors and elementary school classmates. Anxious on the first day of school, each child is fortunate to have a grownup who provides comfort through words and a necklace—a cross for Molly, a prayer for Savera, and a Mogen David for Hannah—which they notice on each other as soon as they meet. Their teacher shows them how to plant seeds. When the girls’ efforts are not immediately successful, they help each other replant. Through the winter, the colorful illustrations show the girls’ friendship blossoming as they play at each other’s homes. In the spring, they plant the saplings, following minor mishaps, in Peace Park.
This is a simple tale with a worthwhile message: children of different faiths share values and can not only get along peacefully but also support each other. This lesson is reinforced by the fact that the co-authors themselves represent the three religions, as explained in the back matter, which also includes an artifact seek-and-find guide to religious symbols. This picture book is entirely appropriate for the intended readership.
The story uses the Rule of Three in many ways—three children, three examples of setbacks, and three titular and culminating words. This structure adds to the story's sense of peace and stability. The girls are open and friendly from the outset and the setbacks they face are minor, so the peace between them is achieved very easily. While this is pleasant, the lack of tension can be seen as negating the need to explain "peace, salaam, shalom."
In regard to Jewish cultural content, readers might deduce that Hannah is Jewish through her Mogen David and through illustrations of a menorah, kiddush cup, challah, and other typical items in her home. However, none of the religions is explicitly named in the text, and any particular Jewish perspective on peace is not provided other than the word "shalom" in Hebrew.
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Cynthia Levinson writes nonfiction for young readers. Her books include The People’s Painter: How Ben Shahn Fought for Justice With Art (illustrated by Evan Turk, Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2021) and Watch Out for Flying Kids: How Two Circuses, Two Countries, and Nine Kids Confront Conflict and Build Community (Peachtree Publishing, 2015).