Yaffa and Fatima
Two neighbors—one Jewish, one Muslim—have always been best friends. When they both fall on hard times, can they find a way to help each other? In Fawzia Gilani’s retelling of this folktale—which has both Jewish and Arab origins—differences are not always causes for conflict and friendship can overcome any obstacle.
|Interest Level||Preschool - Grade 3|
|Reading Level||Grade 2|
|Genre||Fiction, Picture Books|
|Category||Diverse Books: Race & Ethnicity, Diversity, SEL: C Social Awareness, SEL: D Relationship Skills, SEL: E Responsible Decision-Making, Social Emotional Learning|
|Publisher||Lerner Publishing Group|
|Imprint||Kar-Ben Publishing ®, Lerner Digital ™|
|Number of Pages||24|
- Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) Choices
- ABA Children's Book Sense 76
“Yaffa and Fatima are neighbors in the Land of Milk and Honey, where each tends her own date grove.
Every day they pick and sell their dates, cook and share tasty foods, and pray to God—Yaffa in the
synagogue and Fatima in the mosque. When hard times come, they worry about the other’s welfare, and
when they realize that each has been secretly sharing with the other, they are grateful for their friendship.
Inspired by traditional Jewish and Arab tales that usually feature brothers, as in Neil Waldman’s The Two
Brothers: A Legend of Jerusalem (1997), this female-oriented story is told in folkloric style, adding a
multicultural emphasis not present in the originals. Yaffa and Fatima both observe their own cultural and
linguistic traditions, but that never prevents them from appreciating their differences and caring about the
other. Fedele’s artwork features earth tones (appropriate to the arid climate) accented in teal (for Yaffa)
and red (for Fatima). A timeless story, this tale makes its point without ever becoming didactic.”
Jewish Book Council
“Based on an old folktale with both Jewish and Arabic roots, this version of the story focuses on Yaffa and Fatima, two neighbors who are Jewish and Muslim, respectively. The first half of the book sets up their friendship and lays out the different customs of each woman. Then hard times come. Separately, the friends each come up with an identical plan to help the other one out. The text is simple but lovely, as are the muted but expressive illustrations—both of which suit the story perfectly. Its message of mutual respect and of the power of friendship to transcend differences is especially welcome right now.”—Jewish Book Council
“In this retelling of a tale rooted in both Jewish and Arab traditions, two neighbors are friends despite perceived religious tensions of the community. Yaffa and Fatima both own date groves right next door to each other. They share meals and talk and laugh. When Fatima sees Yaffa on the street, she waves and calls, ‘Salaam! Peace!’ Yaffa waves back and calls, ‘Shalom! Peace!’ The text becomes a list of differences between the two women. Yaffa prays in a synagogue. Fatima prays in a mosque. Fatima celebrates Eid. Yaffa celebrates Passover. Fatima is clad in a burgundy hijab, while Jaffa has a deep teal headscarf. Those two colors, set against a neutral backdrop, lightly accent the women’s everyday surroundings as well. The tones are carefully placed to distinguish the two women but are also included in ancillary details to begin to build a feeling of unity. Gilani-Williams never distinctly references any conflict—in fact, even the Israeli setting is not specifically mentioned, only to call it the ‘Land of Milk and Honey.’ But readers can tell, because differences very much define the women’s relationship, that they are overcoming some sort of obstacle in being friends. A subtle, visually arresting introduction to ethnic relations.”―Kirkus Reviews
Association of Jewish Libraries
“In this unique retelling of the classic ‘Brothers’ legend, the title characters are two women – one Jewish, one Muslim—living side-by side in Jerusalem. The women work together harvesting dates, and often share meals. They practice their faiths, which the book lovingly compares. When the crop fails one season, the two women search for ways to help each other through a difficult time. Of course, each is doing the same thing for the other – secretly placing dates in a basket on her neighbor’s porch. Upon discovery, they hug, laugh and share a meal. This version of the story is well told and strongly supports the Jewish values of kindness to strangers and hospitality. The language is simple, short and sweet, perfect for story time. The artwork provides a beautiful portrayal of ‘the Land of Milk and Honey’ in muted tones of teal, maroon, and brown. As a delightful depiction of true friendship, a beautiful book about Israel, and a wonderful retelling of an old story, this is a must have for any Jewish library.”—Association of Jewish Libraries
Author: Fawzia Gilani-Williams
Fawzia Gilani was born and raised in England where she became a teacher. She is the author of many children's books, including A Treasury of Eid Tales, and is currently working on an Islamic fairy tale series. She serves as an international educational consultant with a PhD in children's literature and character development. She is a Global Representative for the International Positive Education Network and works for the Abu Dhabi Education Council. She spends her time in the United Arab Emirates, Ohio, and England with her daughter and husband. She looks forward to the day when world conflict is no more.
Illustrator: Chiara Fedele
Chiara Fedele was born in Milan, Italy. After graduating from art school, she attended the Brera Academy in Milan. Her illustrations have appeared in many picture books. Chiara also teaches drawing and painting techniques. She lives in Pavia, Italy.