Take a seasoned children’s book author like New York-based Jane Breskin Zalben – who has created more than 50 children’s books and is an abstract painter – and pair her with Mehrdohkt Amini, an illustrator of children’s books who lives in the United Kingdom, and the result is a charming book about interfaith friendship for 3-to-7-year-olds – and older readers.
In A Moon for Moe and Mo (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2018), Moses Feldman and Mohammed Hassan meet in a Flatbush, Brooklyn, grocery store, where the storeowner mistakenly takes them for twins since they both have curly dark hair, brown eyes and olive skin. They are shopping with their mothers for their up-and-coming holidays, with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of daylong fasts that marks the giving of the Qur’an to Muhammad, overlapping – something that happens only once every 30 years or so.
The two boys become friends, including going on a picnic, which brings their families together. That same evening in their homes, both boys see the first sliver of the new moon.
In an interview, Breskin Zalben said she was shopping with her granddaughter in a store in Brooklyn when she met an Arab mother with her child and the two children began to interact.
“After being invited to speak at many international schools, in counties where I visited mosques and old synagogues, doing this book was a natural outgrowth of those broadening journeys to other cultures,” she said.
Although Breskin Zalben was art director at Scriber Publishers and illustrated most of her other books, she knew that Amini was from Iran, saw her portfolio and wanted her to do the illustrations for this book. Amini has created beautiful acrylic, marker, ink and photo-collage artwork, which was then assembled digitally.
In the back of the book is information about Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan, notes from the author and illustrator and two recipes.
Said Breskin Zalben, “I am excited to share the diversity and the similarity of Moe and Mo…. I hope maybe this book, in any book’s small way, finds an audience. It was six years in the making and so much hard work and passion goes into every book.”
This is a very special book for children and their parents to read at Rosh Hashanah.
Sybil Kaplan is a journalist, lecturer, book reviewer and food writer in Jerusalem. She created and leads the weekly English-language Shuk Walks in Machane Yehuda, she has compiled and edited nine kosher cookbooks, and is the author of Witness to History: Ten Years as a Woman Journalist in Israel.