Jan 31, 2017

Promoting a Message of Peace: Meet Kar-Ben Author Fawzia Gilani-Williams

Kar-Ben author Fawzia Gilani-Williams was born and raised in England. She was a teacher and 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 and has a PhD in children's literature. A Global Representative for the International Positive Education Network, she works for the Abu Dhabi Education Council, dividing her time among the United Arab Emirates, Ohio, and England. She looks forward to the day when world conflict is no more.

We interviewed Fawzia about her newest picture book, Yaffa and Fatima, Shalom, Salaam, a story that celebrates the friendship between and Jewish and a Muslim girl.

KB: What was your favorite book when you were a child? 
FGW: I didn’t have a favorite. I particularly enjoyed the Favorite Fairy Tales Told in series by Virginia Haviland. I also loved reading stories about the prophets of God.

KB: What’s your favorite line from a book?  
FGW: "My Lord, build for me near You a house in Paradise."

KB: Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?
FGW: It wasn’t a conscious goal.  As a teacher I was confronted with the realization that my students from minority groups were invisible in children’s books. So I tried to address that gap. When I first arrived in the USA, I was impressed with the number of books that were available in public libraries about Hanukkah, and I thought this was very encouraging. I grew up with books that were entirely Anglo-centric. It’s quite widely known that when children feel a sense of belonging and a sense of honor for their families and communities, they are emotionally resilient, confident and can negotiate difficulties and challenges.  These are all wellness elements in allowing positive self-development and learning. Children's books commonly discuss themes that are used to encourage children to undertake a grand role in society. When children don’t see themselves in books it sends a subliminal message of worth. As a teacher I understood the importance of children seeing themselves, their families and community in the literature. ‘Mirror books’ are commonly referred to as books that promote a child’s positive self-development and these are the types of books that I aspire to.

KB: Where did you get the inspiration for your latest Kar-Ben book?
FGW: My book was inspired by a tale which can be found in both the Jewish and Arab traditions. It’s a tale about two brothers who secretly help each other. The story revolves around love, sharing, kindness and compassion - the essential ingredients that make people and the world beautiful.

KB: What are you most excited about promoting in your new book?
The message of peace and being a good neighbor. The message that we actually can all work together to make the world a better place. I’m delighted to be promoting the message of peace.

KB: How do you hope your book will impact a child’s life? 

FGW: I hope that my book impacts the life of a Jewish child and a Muslim child and other children by showing them that caring for another person is entirely necessary on the sole premise that every person belongs to God. As a result the inalienable right of every human being on the planet is to be safe and free and kindness is endemic to both of these rights. I hope the story underscores the importance of being a good neighbor on a micro level and a macro level.

Get your copy of Yaffa and Fatima, Shalom, Salaam today.

Jan 6, 2017

Bagels in Costa Rica! Inspiration from Author Ilana Long

  Kar-Ben author Ilana Long shares her love of bagels and inspiration for her book about bagels, Ziggy's Big Idea .
  I got the big idea for my book Ziggy’s Big Idea when my mother-in-law returned from a talk on the history of the bagel, and I knew I had my topic for a children’s book! I’ve always been a bit of a bagel fanatic. I grew up in Cleveland as the granddaughter of a rabbi, and it was our Sunday morning ritual to head to the local deli and order a bagel slathered with cream cheese, topped off with a decadent slice of lox. Capers and red onions were optional! But no matter how they were decorated, bagels always reminded of family, comfort, nostalgia and home.

            So when I moved to Costa Rica with my husband and twin teenagers three years ago to teach at an international school, I missed my Sunday treat. Sure, I tried to make do with tortillas sprinkled with sesame seeds, but let me tell you, they didn’t even come close! I craved the rich, dense bread and the toasted perfection of my youth!

            On Friday nights, I attended services at our Costa Rican synagogue. After the service, the congregation snacked on cakes and cookies and carrot sticks as we chatted and I tried desperately to pick up on the Spanish conversations. 

            One evening, famished, I headed for the snack table and nearly fell over with excitement. There on the table was a basket of bagels. In Costa Rica! There was cream cheese, lox and red onion, too.  If it hadn’t been for the urgings of my children: “Mom! They’re just bagels. Save some for the rest of us!” I might have devoured the entire basket! 

            “Where did they come from?” I asked, my mouth full, still in blissful awe.

            “I make ‘em. I’m the Costa Rican bagel guy!” It was David Feingold, originally from Boston. His baking business, “Boston Bagels” (in Costa Rica) provides bagels, pizza dough and challahs not only for Costa Rica, but also for other lucky Central American countries. Everything bagels, sesame, poppy seed, and all manner of Boston Bagel flavors can be found in restaurants, store fronts and major stores in Central America.

                “Before founding the company, my wife Olga and I met as students in the United States where we often frequented east coast bagel shops.  Upon moving to Costa Rica, in 1997 we were pioneers in promoting bagels and opened Boston Bagel, the first bagel bakery in Costa Rica.  In 2012 we began to export our products to the rest of Central America.”
Boston Bagels took part recently in helping out the Costa Rican community after the terrible devastation here from Hurricane Otto. The employees recycled used flour bags to fill with care packages for the daily needs of the victims. Also, Feingold’s company provided bagels and cream cheese for the many volunteers at the Red Cross of Costa Rica.

            Happily, I now bring bagels to school with my lunch, eat them on the beach and take them with me on jungle hikes. I have to be careful munching on a deli bagel if I spot white-faced monkeys in the trees.  I’m not the only one who craves these delicious treats, no matter where in the world I find myself!