An optimistic, hopeful picture book about increasing understanding, fostering acceptance, and being open to relationships with those of differing backgrounds, Planting Friendship is the story of three classmates, one Christian, one Jewish, and one Muslim, who learn to build bridges and expand their worlds. Each girl has a strong religious background of which she is proud; each has a supportive family who bolsters her faith without instilling prejudice or fear of others.
The teacher initiates a class project; each girl plants a seed and tries to nurture the green plant that she hopes will continue to grow. In spite of the care taken, the first attempts are unsuccessful. The girls decide to join forces and help one another on a second try. Each shares some family wisdom, encourages the others, and, ultimately, each basks in the others’ successes.
The plants are a metaphor for their growing friendship and the sharing of their common ideals. One girl uses the term peace, another the term salaam, and another the term shalom, but they all understand that peace and harmony transcend language and are goals they can all share, enriching their individual lives as well as society as a whole.
Color illustrations portray three ethnically different-looking faces with similar wide eyes through which the girls observe the world around them. The lush greenery on the page supports not only the story but also leaves the reader with an image of a flourishing planet.
Three authors collaborated on the writing of the story, one Christian, one Muslim, and one Jewish, entwining their joint participation with the theme of their story and providing a living example of cooperation and understanding.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.