The Promise | Bridget Hodder and Fawzia Gilani-Williams


The Promise written by Bridget Hodder and Fawzia Gilani-Williams and illustrated by Cinzia Battistel

Coming September 3, 2023 from Kar-Ben Publishing; 24 pages

About the Author: “Bridget Hodder is the Sephardic Jewish author of the Middle Grade fairy tale The Rat Prince (Macmillan/FSG), and co-author of the Kirkus-starred interfaith MG fantasy The Button Box, with Fawzia Gilani (Lerner Books/Kar-Ben). Her first picture book, The Promise, coming in 2023, is also co-authored with Fawzia Gilani. The Promise features Muslim and Jewish protagonists in a quiet exploration of enduring interfaith friendship. 

Bridget’s books have received awards and recognition from Kirkus, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, the International Literacy Association, the Mythopoeic Society, Book Riot, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other organizations. She is currently Chair of the Vanderbilt University Graduate School Advisory Board and co-administrator of the 5000+ strong Facebook community, “Our Sephardic Family” (Bio from author’s website).

Find Bridget Hodder on the following platforms:

About the Author: “Dr. Fawzia Gilani-Williams is an internationally experienced educator and educational consultant with experience in school accreditation and school inspections. She has written a number of books that promote intercultural literacy, emotional and social flourishing. She serves as a global representative for the International Positive Education Network and is currently employed by the UAE Ministry of Education” (Bio from Goodreads).

Find Fawzia Gilani-Williams on the following platforms:

About the Illustrator: “Cinzia was born in Milan in 1963. After graduating in painting at the Academy of Fine Art at Milan, she went on to become a freelance illustrator. Years later, she fled to the countryside not far from the shore, to paint illustrations and take a dip in the sea. You can find the colors of the Italian landscape in all her artwork, whether in watercolors, pastels, or digital paintings. Cinzia specializes in illustrating landscapes, travel, and stories from life. Seas and mountains, animals and children, magazines and books, paper and film, the leitmotif is the journey. She has been involved in animation pre-production, working on story concept, concept design, colors, scripts. and backgrounds. She is teaching all of this to her students at the School of Cinema of Milano. Cinzia sometimes writes for tv animation series and books. She also loves puppies and all the little animals that live near her home, like hoopoes, fawns, owls and the little eagles who sit on the power lines of her broadband internet which is often a bit slow. Nature is the best inspirer of her naturalistic illustrated books. After starting her career as a children’s book illustrator, she moved her interests to be aligned more with arts. Cinzia’s artwork and watercolor paintings have been shown at many exhibitions, recently two solo shows, and paintings in galleries in Ancona, Senigallia and Milano. She is attracted to paces made of silence and shadows and the graphics of their landscape and cultures, but also stories of migration. Her most recent book that is about to come out in Italy is a story of refugees in Italy. [ … ] Her illustrations are set to appear in Italian magazines. She has been recognized several times by the Annual of Italian Illustration. When Cinzia isn’t creating art, growing spinach, or making jams, she returns to Milan to teach at the School of Cinema” (Bio from Astound website).

Find Cinzia Battistel on the following platforms:

“A garden is a promise, and a promise must be kept.”

A young Jewish boy, Jacob, and a Muslim boy, Hassan, are the best of friends. Living in their Moroccan village, Al-Azan, the two spend as much time with each other as possible. Their favorite place is Jacob’s garden, which is filled with beautiful flowers and trees. The two view the garden as a promise that must be kept and tended to. When the village gets word of the horrendous things happening to the Jewish people in Europe — soon known as the Holocaust —  Jacob’s family must flee. Hassan then promises Jacob that he will take care of the garden until Jacob comes back or for the rest of Hassan’s life. As long as the garden thrives, Hassan’s and Jacob’s friendship lives on. 

Based on a true story, The Promise navigates the strength and purity that comes from a friendship built on shared love and respect. Religion can be a divider amongst people, but Jacob and Hassan show it is possible to maintain their faith while also connecting with others from different religions. Not only is the story uplifting, but the art that accompanies the narrative truly brings it to life. I loved the bright colors used on every page, especially in the garden scenes. Every paint stroke was visible, giving an almost mural-like feel to the book. I liked how Cinzia Battistel took the time to expand the scenes beyond the text, showing aspects of the children’s lives that no words could capture perfectly. I also appreciated the inclusion of a historical context page that talked about the history of Judaism in Morocco as well as the story that inspired this picture book. The Promise is the perfect picture book to give to children to teach them not only the importance of a promise but also what a strong, empowering interfaith friendship looks like.

PRR Writer, Tereza Rascon