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  • Writer's pictureManju Howard

Author Melissa Stoller on Collaborating to Create an Inspiring Picture Book

Ever wonder about collaborating to write a picture book? Here's a terrific example!

For our Kidlit Creatives Members, you have a chance to win Melissa's special prize package. To WIN this prize, follow the directions at the end of this post.

Welcome, Melissa!

Thank you so much for hosting me today! I’m happy to chat a bit about the inspiration and collaboration for our new book, PLANTING FRIENDSHIP: PEACE, SALAAM, SHALOM (co-authored with Callie Metler and Shirin Rahman, illustrated by Kate Talbot, Clear Fork Publishing, October 2021). I’m absolutely thrilled that this story is out in the world!


The story focuses on Hannah, Savera, and Molly who meet on the first day of school. They are all worried about making new friends, until they notice they are wearing similar necklaces. When their teacher, Ms. Blume, announces a planting project, they work together and realize they are more alike than different. As their plants bloom in Peace Park, their friendship blossoms. We hope that this book will bring more kindness, understanding, and peace to the world.


Shirin initially brought the idea to Callie and me – she envisioned writing a story as three co-authors from three different religions, with underlying themes of cooperation and peace. We brainstormed together and knew that the main characters would be three girls from our same faith traditions – Jewish, Christian, and Muslim. We wanted to show that the girls are all different, but of course they are similar in many ways too, and both similarities and differences need to be celebrated. After many discussions about our religions, our diverse backgrounds, and our heritages, we decided to set the story in the girls’ homes as well as in school. Their home life was important to ground them in their cultures, and then school was where they came together and formed a strong bond and friendship.


It has been such a joy to work with Shirin and Callie from the initial stages of story planning, through the writing and revising process. We have been meeting almost weekly for two years! And when the amazing illustrator Kate Talbot joined the process, our trio became a wonderful group of four! Kate has brought her beautiful and unique vision to the project and the girls she created feel like our friends too! We all researched cultural objects that Kate included in the illustrations and added back matter to provide further information. I feel blessed that our collaboration is continuing as we are working on BUILDING BRIDGES: PEACE, SALAAM, SHALOM due out in 2022, and also the third picture book in the series. And stay tuned for more!

Thanks, Melissa!

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 in 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. 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 spending time with friends.


Special Prize Package includes a signed copy of PLANTING FRIENDSHIP: PEACE, SALAAM, SHALOM and book swag (United States address only). To enter this giveaway - Leave a comment on our Kidlit Creatives page (must be a member) and share this interview on your Twitter or Facebook.

Deadline to enter is Saturday, November 20th.

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