Oh how full my heart is after reading this book, and wiping a tear from my eye. When the daily news angers and frustrates, a story as sweet as two friends helping and worrying about each other gives hope to the future of the world. I know that is probably over reaching the impact of a children’s book, but sometimes it really is just one person helping another person, just finding similarities instead of differences, and above all having a big heart.
Yaffa and Fatima are neighbors and both grow dates. The two women, one Jewish and one Muslim, share a lot of similarities they both fast, pray, celebrate, and help others. They often sell their dates next to each other in the market and then share their food and customs with each other. During one growing season, rain is scarce, and each woman begins to worry about if the other has enough- not just to sell, but to eat as well. Secretly they both help each other and prove the power of friendship and kindness is universal and powerful.
The illustrations are smartly done. This isn’t the book for bright and colorful or overly cartoonish depictions. The simplicity of the words introduce the reader to Islamic traditions and Jewish traditions, but the purpose is to show their similarities and the illustrations mimic that sentiment beautifully. The contrast of red and blue show the differences with the larger muted tones being the same. The warmth in the characters faces mirror the warmth of their actions and the detail is balanced with intriguing the reader without distracting from the text. The illustrator does a good job of also showing the women covering their hair in public, albeit differently, but not within their homes. And of also showing the different ways the women worship without the words having to do so.
The author has a note at the beginning acknowledging the roots of the story as a tale about two brothers in both Jewish and Arab traditions. And at 24 pages it works for children of all faiths and all ages, two years old and up. The book was recommended by a woman, who I hope to meet next week, when she and her Jewish community join us at the mosque for our monthly story time. With a theme of friendship, this book will be the focus of what bridges and connections we can all make in our personal lives to make the wold a little better. I can’t wait to share it with our children of both faiths!