I’m Erin Dealey, and I write books for kids. I’m a teacher, presenter, rhymer, blogger, and proud Drama Mama.

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Happy Book Birthday to Building Bridges: Peace, Salaam, Shalom = 8 Qs about connections, communities, and moving mountains…together.

October 4, 2022

BUILDING BRIDGES: Peace, Salaam, Shalom by Callie Metler, Shirin Rahman, and Melissa Stoller; Illus. Kate Talbot; Spork / Clear Fork Publishing.

It’s a Happy (almost) #Book Birthday

for BUILDING BRIDGES: Peace, Salaam, Shalom

–and we’re celebrating the Oct. 18th release of this lovely book

created by 3 #kidlit authors

+ 1 illustrator

–with 8 questions!

Callie Metler, Shirin Rahman, and Melissa Stoller & Illustrator Kate Talbot are the same team behind PLANTING FRIENDSHIP: PEACE, SALAAM, SHALOM, which published last year.

PLANTING FRIENDSHIP: Peace, Salaam, Shalom by Callie Metler, Shirin Rahman, and Melissa Stoller; Illus. Kate Talbot; Spork / Clear Fork Publishing.

I love it that co-authors Callie Metler, Shirin Rahman, and Melissa Stoller are three women authors of three different faith traditions – Jewish, Christian, and Muslim.

Interior art by Kate Talbot from BUILDING BRIDGES: Peace, Salaam, Shalom by Callie Metler, Shirin Rahman, and Melissa Stoller; Spork / Clear Fork Publishing.

As Melissa explains, their picture book series stars three girls – Hannah, Molly, and Savera, who are from these different faith traditions: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim. In each of the stories, the girls help bring peace, kindness, and empathy into the world.

Don’t you love this already?

We are lucky to have author Melissa Berger Stoller and illustrator Kate Talbot joining us!

Fun fact: Melissa lives in Manhatten, NY, and Kate lives in Auckland, New Zealand, so we are thankful for the “bridge” of technology to bring them together today.

Let’s get started!

Q 1. Congratulations to all of you on the second book of this wonderful series. This is indeed a collaboration of friendship and respect! Can you tell us how the project evolved?

Melissa Berger Stoller: Thank you for featuring me on your blog again, Erin!

(ED Note: see Melissa’s previous interview here.)

MBS: I’m so happy to share about BUILDING BRIDGES: PEACE, SALAAM, SHALOM. And I am truly LUCKY to be collaborating with Kate Talbot!

Callie Metler is also the publisher of Clear Fork Publishing, and I had met her in person at writing conferences and museums in Texas and New York City.

I was lucky to also know Shirin Rahman through several writing groups as well. Shirin brought the initial idea to Callie and me – to write an interfaith story together. We absolutely loved working all together, and when Kate joined the fun, we became a true “Dream Team!” 

About the Book

Q 2. What’s the significance of the book’s title, BUILDING BRIDGES?

Melissa Berger Stoller: In BUILDING BRIDGES, the three girls, Hannah, Molly, and Savera, discover that their beloved bridge into Peace Park is crumbling. Together, using problem-solving skills and lots of creativity, they find a way to help save the bridge, showing their community that three small girls can make a big difference. Along the way, they build bridges of connection among friends, families, and communities.

Meet the Illustrator:

Q 3. I’m always in awe –ahhh!– of the magic that illustrators bring to picture books. What are some the ahhhs that were added by illustrator Kate Talbot?

Melissa Berger Stoller: Kate’s incredible artwork has brought both books alive. I love how she highlights all three religions in the setting, showing a church, synagogue, and mosque. And Kate also spotlights cultural symbols throughout the stories. Kate also lovingly showed diversity in the classroom and community in both books. And – Kate’s work is just overall bright, brilliant, and beautiful. 

Q 4. This question is for Kate: How does your degree in filmmaking and career as a Film Producer (the highlight of which was “spilling an entire tray of drinks in Russell Crowe’s lap before falling butt-first into a fountain” ) influence your work as a picture book illustrator?  

Kate Talbot: Because I come from a filmmaking background, I tend to not only see stories visually but as moving images. When I’m creating illustrations, I almost feel like I’m watching a movie in my eye’s mind, and it’s then my job to capture the right frame to put into the book.  


Q 5. What was one of the most surprising discoveries you made in illustrating this book?  

Kate Talbot: Having come straight out of illustrating the first book (we had about three weeks’ break between books one and two) there weren’t too many surprises illustrating BUILDING BRIDGES. I felt like I already knew the characters intimately and the additional characters in this book simply felt like an extension of the world we’d already created. As such, I got to spend a lot more time developing the environment in which these three characters could live and play.  

Interior art by Kate Talbot from PLANTING FRIENDSHIP: Peace, Salaam, Shalom by Callie Metler, Shirin Rahman, and Melissa Stoller; Spork / Clear Fork Publishing.

KT: As we’d already shown establishing shots of the town in the previous book PLANTING FRIENDSHIP (see interior spread above), I had to think carefully about where events like the concert and Building Bridge Day could take place. I couldn’t suddenly include locations that hadn’t been shown in book one.

World Building

As such, a lot of thought went into “world-building”. I think my background as a filmmaker really helped in this regard as in my mind’s eye I could visualise the space and move my “camera” around to reveal or avoid showing certain areas. This is a skill I most definitely developed in low-budget filmmaking, in which we’d have to shoot from certain angles or crop things out of the image in order to create the appropriate world.  

Interior art by Kate Talbot from BUILDING BRIDGES: Peace, Salaam, Shalom by Callie Metler, Shirin Rahman, and Melissa Stoller; Spork / Clear Fork Publishing.

Q 6. Do you have a favorite spread –or one that was most challenging?  

Kate Talbot: Illustrating this book was such a pleasure, as each page is bursting with joy and colour, so it’s hard to pick one favourite. I literally had a smile on my face each time I sat down to work. However, I think my absolute favourite would have to be the final double spread in which (spoiler alert!) the community celebrate the new bridge at Peace Park.

We wanted to have all three girl’s families, all their classmates, teachers and community leaders in the page, so there was a lot to cover. We also wanted to have a diverse community, so a lot of thought went into this spread.  

Interior art by Kate Talbot from BUILDING BRIDGES: Peace, Salaam, Shalom by Callie Metler, Shirin Rahman, and Melissa Stoller; Spork / Clear Fork Publishing.


Q 7. What do you hope readers will take away from this story?  

Kate Talbot: In a world that feels ever divided, it is my greatest hope that books such as BUILDING BRIDGES will help show children that a kinder, more tolerant world is possible. BUILDING BRIDGES doesn’t seek to point out the differences between the main characters, but highlights that we all have something to bring to the table, and collectively, we can move mountains. If nothing else, I hope this message comes across loud and clear.  

Melissa Berger Stoller: I hope that readers take away the message that we can all help create peace, salaam, shalom in our families and communities – by reaching out to help others, showing empathy toward everyone we meet, and looking for ways to be a creative problem solver to bring positive change to the world.

Thank you both so much for joining us today!  

Melissa Berger Stoller is also 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! She is a Blogger and Course Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, a Rate Your Story Judge, a volunteer with SCBWI/MetroNY, a judge with Rate Your Story, and a founding member of The Book Meshuggenahs. She also interviews authors on her blog, This Writing Life, and offers book tips and resources. 

For more about Melissa

Visit her webite and blog at melissastoller.com

 And follow her on social media:

Twitter: @MelissaStoller 

Instagram: melissa_stoller


Kate Talbot has just finished illustrating Mary Munson’s debut picture book LOVE WILL TURN YOU AROUND set for release in 2023 through Gnome Road Publishing. As with Melissa, Callie and Shirin’s series, the theme of this gorgeous story is about the power of kindness and the importance of connectivity. It follows the story of a little Heart that wakes to discover he’s the wrong way up, but with the help of his friends, turns things around.  

For more about Kate

Visit her webite katetalbotbooks.com

And follow her on social media:

Twitter: @KateTalbotBooks

Instagram: katetalbotart

Wishing one and all


No comments on this post yet.

  1. Thank you so much for highlighting our story, Erin! We are all excited for BUILDING BRIDGES; PEACE, SALAAM, SHALOM to be out in the world! ☮️