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Children's and Young Adult Books set in the Middle East Available worldwide from Amazon.com Sitti's Secrets by Naomi ...

Compiled by author Bernadette Simpson, updated October 2010

Children's and Young Adult Books set in the Middle East

Available worldwide from Amazon.com

Sitti's Secrets

by Naomi Shihab-Nye

Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

ISBN 0-689-81706-1

Aladdin Paperbacks

Mona's grandmother, her Sitti, lives in a small Palestinian village on the other side of

the earth. Once, Mona went to visit her. They couldn't speak each other's language,

so they made up their own. They learned about each other's world's, and they discovered each other's secrets. Then it was time for Mona to go back home, back to the other side of the earth. But even though there were millions of miles and millions of people between them, they remained true neighbors forever. Ages 4 - 8 The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq by Jeannette Winter ISBN 0152054456 Harcourt Children's Books From Goodreads.com Alia Muhammad Baker is a librarian in Basra, Iraq. For fourteen years, her library has been a meeting place for those who love books. Until now. Now war has come, and Alia fears that the library--along with the thirty thousand books within it--will be destroyed forever.

In a war-stricken country where civilians--especially women--have little power, this true story about a librarian's struggle to save her community's priceless collection of books reminds us all how, throughout the world, the love of literature and the respect for knowledge know no boundaries. Ages 4-8 Silent Music by James Rumford ISBN 1596432764 Roaring Brook Press From Booklist My name is Ali. I live in Baghdad. In just a few lines per page, a young Iraqi boy describes his favorite things: soccer, loud parent-rattling music, dancing, and, most of all, Arabic calligraphy: I love to make the ink flow... stopping and starting, gliding and sweeping, leaping, dancing to the silent music in my head. When bombs fall on the city, Ali, inspired by his hero, Yakut, a thirteenth-century calligrapher, calms himself with his pen: I filled my room with pages of calligraphy. I filled my mind with peace. Rumford, who has included Arabic calligraphy in previous titles, such as Calabash Cat and His Amazing Journey (2003), fills his multimedia collages with large, looping script that spells out the words and phrases that Ali writes. Many children will have questions about Arabic writing and where the individual letters stop and start, but theyll connect with Alis first-person voice, which echoes the calligraphys graceful rhythm and tells a simple, powerful story about a childs everyday survival and hope in wartime Baghdad.

Grades 1-3. --Gillian Engberg Ages 4 8 Compiled by author Bernadette Simpson, updated October 2010


From School Library Journal Kindergarten-Grade 2In this Saudi folktale, Jouha loads ten donkeys with dates to sell at the market. As he rides along, he counts nine and believes one is lost. Yet when he walks, he counts all ten and is grateful that the missing donkey is back.

Alternately lucky and unlucky, depending on whether he walks or rides, Jouha sells his dates and returns home with all of his donkeys. Arabic numbers from one to ten are written from right to left at the bottom of the pages, both in Arabic and in English transliteration, and invite youngsters to count along with the silly date merchant. (Readers can listen to Taibah pronounce these numbers on MacDonald's Web site.) Full-color paintings expand the repetitive text, tracing the journey of ten distinctly different donkeys across the desert landscape and indicating the passage of time with the position of the sun, the color of the sky, and the size of the shadows underneath the donkeys. In an opening note, MacDonald documents the many variants of this folktale, including Denys Johnson-Davies's Goha the Wise Fool (Philomel, 2005), which is set in Egypt. For those libraries with large folklore collections or those looking for unusual counting books.

Ages 4-8


From Amazon.com Elvis the Camel is the true story of a young camel whose blissful life in the safety of his mother's love and his herd's protection is rudely shattered when he is hit by a truck late one night. Cold and alone, his hip broken, he lies by the side of the road and trembles with fear. But as the day dawns he is found by a compassionate mother and her three children who gently take him to the camel track. There they find Yousef, the camel doctor. Against the odds and with skill and patience, Yousef and the children nurse Elvis "the Pelvis" back to health and return him to the bosom of his family.

The heartwarming story of Elvis the Camel is told by Barbara Devine and illustrated with delicate yet vivid watercolors by Patricia Al Fakhri It is a story that will charm and delight. Ages 4-8


many beautiful camels. She thinks they are more beautiful than she is but the judge is not only looking for a beautiful face, but also a beautiful personality. Has Kamilla got what it takes to win...?


From Goodreads.com The baghdad zoo was once home to more than six hundred magnificent animals.

But after the war in Iraq began in 2003, the city faced widespread destruction.

When U. S. Army Captain William Sumner was asked to check out the state of the zoo, he found that it, too, was devastated. Hundreds of animals were missing, and the few remaining were in desperate need of care. And so Captain Sumner accepted a new mission. Together with an international team of zoologists, veterinarians, conservationists, and dedicated animal lovers, Captain Sumner worked tirelessly to save the neglectedbut tenaciousanimals of Baghdad. Saving the Baghdad Zoo tells the poignant stories of these remarkable animals. Meet the abandoned lions who roamed an empty palace with no food or drink; the camel, Lumpy, who survived transport through sniper fire; the tigers, Riley and Hope, who traveled 7,000 miles from home; and many more. The Baghdad Zoo, open once again to the people of Iraq, has become an oasis of hope and safety in a city where both are precious gifts. Ages 9 - 12 Compiled by author Bernadette Simpson, updated October 2010


From Kirkus Reviews Liyana Abboud, 14, and her family make a tremendous adjustment when they move to Jerusalem from St. Louis. All she and her younger brother, Rafik, know of their Palestinian father's culture come from his reminiscences of growing up and the fighting they see on television. In Jerusalem, she is the only ``outsider'' at an Armenian school; her easygoing father, Poppy, finds himself having to remind her--often against his own common sense--of rules for ``appropriate'' behavior; and snug shops replace supermarket shopping--the malls of her upbringing are unheard of. Worst of all, Poppy is jailed for getting in the middle of a dispute between Israeli soldiers and a teenage refugee. In her first novel, Nye (with Paul Janeczko, I Feel a Little Jumpy Around You, 1996, etc.) shows all of the charms and flaws of the old city through unique, short-story-like chapters and poetic language. The sights, sounds, and smells of Jerusalem drift through the pages and readers glean a sense of current Palestinian-Israeli relations and the region's troubled history. In the process, some of the passages become quite ponderous while the human story- -Liyana's emotional adjustments in the later chapters and her American mother's reactions overall--fall away from the plot.

However, Liyana's romance with an Israeli boy develops warmly, and readers are left with hope for change and peace as Liyana makes the city her very own. Ages 10+


From School Library Journal Grade 3 Up-- Ten-year-old Sami lives in Beirut, Lebanon. Because of gunfire and bombing in the streets, he and his family spend much of their time in the basement of an uncle's house. There they listen to the radio or stare at the carpets Sami's mother insisted on bringing along as reminders of a normal life. When there is a lull in the fighting, the boy enjoys a day at the beach or meets with a friend to make a fort and play at war. ```When we are older, we will have real guns,''' says Amir. Sami disagrees. ```The fighting will be over then. It cannot last forever.''' At the story's end, Sami and his family are back underground listening as the ``noises of the night'' begin. As in The Day of Ahmed's Secret (Lothrop, 1990), three marvelously talented collaborators offer a powerful, poignant book. Heide and Gilliland's lyrically written, haunting story makes clear that war threatens not only physical existence but affects the human spirit as well. Lewin's watercolor illustrations capture contemporary Beirut with stunning clarity and drama. A bridal party walks through the rubble of a bombed-out street, old men drink coffee and smoke waterpipes, a blue sky startles with its brilliance. And Sami--surrounded by the carpets whose muted colors suggest a glimmering of hope--waits in the black cave of a basement. Unforgettable. Ages 9 - 12


From School Library Journal Grade 5-8An enjoyable and often surprising collection of stories about Arab teenagers living in modern-day Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and Iraq. Like Marston's nonfiction title Women in the Middle East: Tradition and Change (Scholastic, 1996), these stories dispel many stereotypes about this part of the world. The young people are facing some specifically Middle Eastern issues such as the U.S. embargo on Iraq and the hardships of life in a Palestinian refugee camp, but they also have concerns that will be familiar to American readers: loyalty to friends, dreams of a future career, and Compiled by author Bernadette Simpson, updated October 2010 feelings of being torn between divorced parents. The characters are complex and interesting, and the Middle Eastern settings are described in rich detail. Each selection is followed by a note in which the author explains social issues specific to the story that may be unfamiliar to readers. This collection will appeal to those who enjoyed Naomi Shihab Nye's Habibi (S & S, 1997) and would also be a good choice for classes discussing this part of the world or multicultural issues in general. Ages 9 - 12


From Goodreads.com Rana Azzoubi's new book, Through a Mud Wall, is a gripping and fun story about four children, living in the country of Jordan, who embark on an adventure bigger than they could have ever imagined. Nadia and Walid, typical of their age, delight in being with their friends, keeping secrets from adults, and discovering new places. During a family gettogether, on their grandfather's mountain farm, they join with their two cousins to explore a cave, which the farm-keeper had warned them to stay away from. After mischievously fooling the adults, they manage to get inside the cave, where they stumble upon a fake wall. They are anxious to discover what secret lies beyond this wall, but first they must do some detective work, to find out who might have used the cave long ago. In their excitement, the children imagine that the secret may even be gold, hidden away for ages. Partly based upon the author's own background, Through a Mud Wall is a charming story appropriate for children aged seven through twelve. Filled with lighthearted humor and interesting factual information, it helps readers of all ages and nationalities learn about life in Jordan. Ages 9 12


From Goodreads.com As she grieved over the "huge shadow [that] had been cast across the lives of so many innocent people and an ancient culture's pride" after September 11, 2001, poet and author Naomi Shihab Nye's natural response was to write, to grasp "onto details to stay afloat."

Accordingly, Nye has gathered over four dozen of her own poems about the Middle East and about being an Arab American living in the United States. Devoted followers of the award-winning and beloved poet will recognize some of their favorites from her earlier collections (The Space Between Our Footsteps: Poems and Paintings from the Compiled by author Bernadette Simpson, updated October 2010 Middle East, etc.), while absorbing themselves in her new haunting and evocative poems. Nye writes of figs and olives, fathers' blessings and grandmothers' hands that "recognize grapes, / and the damp shine of a goat's new skin." She writes of Palestinians, living and dead, of war, and of peace. Readers of all ages will be profoundly moved by the vitality and hope in these beautiful lines from Nye's heart. --Emilie Coulter Ages 9 and up


From Goodreads.com Thirteen year old Hayaat is on a mission. She believes a handful of soil from her grandmother's ancestral home in Jerusalem will save her beloved Sitti Zeynab's life. The only problem is that Hayaat and her family live behind the impenetrable wall that divides the West Bank, and they're on the wrong side of check points, curfews, and the travel permit system.

Plus, Hayaat's best friend Samy always manages to attract trouble. But luck is on the pair's side as they undertake the journey to Jerusalem from the Palestinian Territories when Hayaat and Samy have a curfew-free day to travel..But while their journey may only be a few kilometers long, it could take a lifetime to complete....Humorous and heartfelt, WHERE THE STREETS HAD A NAME deals with the IsraelPalestinian conflict with sensitivity and grace and will open a window on this timely subject. Ages 9-12 Compiled by author Bernadette Simpson, updated October 2010


From School Library Journal Grade 5-8-A moving story of courage, loss, personal growth, and familial love, set in 1988 in the Middle East. A month earlier, Malaak Abed Atieh's father left their home in Gaza City and never returned. Every day, the 11-year-old climbs up to her roof and waits for him, for she does not know that the bus he was on became a terrorist target. Since his disappearance, she hasn't spoken to anyone except her dove, a gift from him. Her mother finally tells her what happened, and the child begins to worry about her 12-year-old brother, whom she fears is becoming involved with a radical group. For his sake, Malaak comes out of her shell to try to save him from the growing violence that surrounds them. Malaak is a strong character who longs for her father's physical presence but finds solace and comfort when communicating with him on a spiritual level. Events move quickly and consistently throughout the story, and all of the characters are well drawn. With a sharp eye for nuances of culture and the political situation in the Middle East, Clinton has created a rich, colorful cast of characters and created an emotionally charged novel. The glossary of Arabic words and their English meanings is helpful. Ages 9-12


From Kirkus Reviews Here, Laird, author of a poignant first novel about the effects of a hydrocephalic baby on his family (Loving Ben, 1989), portrays the journey of a Kurdish refugee family--a story based on the real experiences in the mid-80's of Iraqi Kurds now living in England. For Tara, 13, and her family, their ordeal is cruel and often life-threatening, yet they are among the lucky ones.

Wealthy ``Baba'' (secretly a power in the Kurdish military) still has money even after repeated searches, while ``Daya'' manages to smuggle her jewels. Escaping the police as they leave their luxurious home in a city in northern Iraq, they take a taxi to their primitive vacation house in the mountains.

For Tara, the return to village ways is almost as much of a shock as the bombs that eventually drive the family over the border into Iran, to a refugee camp infested with bedbugs and assaulted by deafening prayers rasped from a loudspeaker. Eventually, Baba makes contact with relatives in Teheran and passage to London is negotiated. Everpresent dangers maintain suspense--from a brutal street-killing Tara witnesses to her older brother's miraculous Compiled by author Bernadette Simpson, updated October 2010 escape; meanwhile, Laird builds a sympathetic picture of the embattled Kurds and a compelling portrait of Tara and the sobering changes wrought in her and her family by the events, including her first startled response to a free society (``attractive and exciting...but frightening...as if things might suddenly get out of control''). An important contribution to the growing number of refugee stories. (Fiction. 10+) Ages 9-12


From Amazom.com Reader Review by Diana Pollock In this book Julia Johnson tells the story of a little boy, Saeed, and his father, and what happened when for the first time Saeed accompanied him on one of the long diving expeditions aboard a sambuk - one of the great pearling boats. The story is simple but detailed. It describes the often hazardous world of the pearl divers, and includes a glossary to help with Arab words and phrases. And it is quite beautifully illustrated by Patricia Al Fakhri, who watercolours perfectly match the transparent prose. The more those of us in the west can read about the Arab world, and especially those parts of it that do not make headlines or uncomfortable news, the more understanding there will be between our peoples. This is a charming glimpse of that world, and one which Julia Johnson has recorded before it is lost under the glittering new one. Ages 9-12


From School Library Journal Grade 7 Up: Over 100 poets and artists from 19 countries are gathered in this feast of poetry and paintings. The anthology is a potluck of Middle Eastern tastes, and every dish is full of flavorful surprises. Thirty-nine paintings, done in a rich assortment of styles and mediums, from figurative to folk art,


to collage, are scattered throughout. The artwork enhances, but in no way outshines the poetry contained within these pages.

Good poetry evokes emotion and brings feelings and images to light; this collection exquisitely touches the senses through well-crafted language in glimpses of bright sun, watermelons, a rose on an uncle's lapel, a grandfather's footsteps, and heartbreaking images of children maimed by revolution. Nye's respect and admiration for Middle Eastern culture, and for poetry, come through in the expertly chosen, artistically arranged entries. Many of the selections have been translated into English for this compilation, and the poets' lyrical voices have been retained.

The universality of topicsAchildhood, nature, love, homeland, war, family, schoolAgives insight into a culture and proves that differences are only skin deep. Students of the region and of poetry will be pleasurably served by this volume that includes a comprehensive introduction, a map, and short biographies of the contributors. YOUNG ADULT


From School Library Journal Grade 58Palestinian teen Amani tends her extended Muslim family's sheep alongside her beloved grandfather, Seedo, and helps tend their vineyards and olive groves. When their quiet rural life is disturbed by Israeli settlers encroaching on their land, Amani's uncle reacts with anger, while her father tries to resist peacefully with the help of a sympathetic rabbi. After Seedo dies, Amani has sole responsibility for the diminishing flock and experiences physical threat and gunfire from the settlers as well as friendship with their son, who just wants to return to New York. The tension escalates until Amani's family compound is destroyed, and her father and uncle are imprisoned. Carter strikes a splendid balance in character development, portraying both parties' flaws while demonstrating Palestinian sympathies. Background and cultural information are seamlessly woven into the narrative, which is written simply and clearly in a skillful depiction of a sensitive situation. YOUNG ADULT Compiled by author Bernadette Simpson, updated October 2010


Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran: of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life and of the enormous toll repressive regimes exact on the individual spirit. Marjanes child's-eye-view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolisis at once a story of growing up and a stunning reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, through laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love. YOUNG ADULT Compiled by author Bernadette Simpson, updated October 2010


Finding that she misses her home more than she can stand, Marjane returns to Iran after graduation. Her difficult homecoming forces her to confront the changes both she and her country have undergone in her absence and her shame at what she perceives as her failure in Austria. Marjane allows her past to weigh heavily on her until she finds some like-minded friends, falls in love, and begins studying art at a university. However, the repression and state-sanctioned chauvinism eventually lead her to question whether she can have a future in Iran. YOUNG ADULT


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