Established in 1999, the Middle East Book Award recognizes quality books for children and young adults that contribute meaningfully to an understanding of the Middle East and its component societies and cultures.
Books are judged on the authenticity of their portrayal of a Middle Eastern subject, as well as on characterization, plot, and appeal for the intended audience. For this award, the Middle East is defined as the Arab World, Iran, Israel, Turkey, and Afghanistan.
Awards are given in three categories: Picture Books, Youth Literature, and Youth Nonfiction.
2014 PICTURE BOOK AWARD
Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of Education by Elizabeth Suneby, illustrated by Suana Verelst, Kids Can Press, 2013
Set in a village in Afghanistan, Razia and her family watch as a new school is being built–just for girls! She hopes more than anything to attend but faces resistance due to a traditional gender roles, family needs, and a community overcoming the effects of war. Based on a true story, Razia’s Ray of Hope offers a view of Afghan culture in real world context, emphasizing the role of family members in problem-solving and the importance of education. Razia’s dream of going to school reflects the wide understanding that educating girls offers immense personal benefit but also has positive impact on families and national development. This book provides a vehicle for discussing current events and cultural issues with younger students. They will enjoy and learn from the story and gorgeous mixed media illustrations. Sunesby has included background on the actual story and efforts to promote education in developing nations, a glossary, and teaching activities.
2014 PICTURE BOOK HONORABLE MENTIONS
The Camel in the Sun by Griffin Ondaatje, illustrated by Linda Wolfsgruber, Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2013
A sad but hard-working camel belongs to an unfeeling merchant Salim. As they travel and trade through the desert in what is now Saudi Arabia, Salim pays little attention to the comfort and needs of his increasingly forlorn camel. After a visit to Salim by the Prophet Mohammed, who shows empathy toward the camel, Salim has a much-needed change in heart and behavior. The story is based on an Islamic hadith, an account of the Prophet’s words or actions that has been passed down through the centuries. Although initially a sad story, younger students will be engaged by the message of kindness to animals and compassion in general. The muted but colorful illustrations are appealing and well-suited for the story.
Never Say A Mean Word Again: A Tale from Medieval Spain by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Durga Yael Bernhard, Wisdom Tales, 2014
Two boys, one Jewish and one Muslim, grow up as close friends in medieval southern Spain, or Al-Andalus. One of their fathers, a powerful vizier, comes up with a creative strategy for settling a conflict between the boys. It resolves the issue and sheds light on the challenges of friendship any time but especially when there are cultural and status differences. The story is based on a real-life actions of the Jewish poet Samuel Ha-Nagid, a royal advisor in 11th Century Muslim Spain. Young students will enjoy and relate easily to the lovely illustrations, humorous story, and lesson about how to keep a friend.
2013 PICTURE BOOK AWARD
Hands Around The Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books by Karen Leggett Abouraya, illustrated by Susan L. Roth (Dial Books, 2012)
This remarkable picture book features beautiful and varied illustrations of an actual event, with photo montages at once captivating and playful. It makes the Egyptian uprising accessible to young children through the lens of the library and offers useful background information and possible extensions across the curriculum. Reviewers noted the inclusion of Arabic writing, details in illustrations with Alexandria’s seacoast setting, colors and significance of the Egyptian flag, and issues important to those protesting. Highly educational, the book’s content can be extended to many topics and subjects.
2013 PICTURE BOOK HONORABLE MENTION
Golden Domes And Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book Of Colors by Hena Khan, illustrated by Mehrdikht Amini (Chronicle Books, 2012)
Impressive to reviewers were this book’s beautiful illustrations and easy-to-read yet engaging prose. The text in rhyme makes it pleasing to younger students who may be hearing the book read aloud. Reviewers pointed out that the glossary at the end further supports learning about Islam.
2012 PICTURE BOOK CO-AWARDS
Folktales From Turkey: From Agri To Zelve by Serpil Ural, illustrated by Dilara Arin (Citlembik Publications, 2012).
Folktales from Turkey is a wonderful combination of folktales and stories in combination with historic, geographic, and cultural content. Evaluators especially enjoyed the format: short stories with side panels that offer information on a wide variety of topics. The book is well-written, nicely illustrated, and offers teachers many opportunities for follow-up research or art projects. Overall, “it is an unusual book and reflects tremendous research and creativity on the part of the author and illustrator.”
The Wooden Sword: A Jewish Folktale From Afghanistan by Ann Redisch Stampler, illustrated by Carol Liddiment (Albert Whitman and Company, 2012)
The Wooden Sword is a charming story with “vibrant illustrations with rich, sensuous colors that epitomize the beauty of the Middle East.” Reviewers also loved the repetition of the phrase “I have faith that everything will turn out just as it should,” which is reassuring to children. It is well-written, engaging, and colorful.
2012 PICTURE BOOK HONORABLE MENTION
What’s The Buzz: Honey For A Sweet New Year by Alison Ofanansky, photographs by Eliyahu Alpern. (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2011).
What’s the Buzz? received praise for its information on the Jewish celebration of Rosh Hashanah traditions, the bee industry, and life in modern Israel. Written for young children, it fills a huge hole in non-fiction for early grade levels. Reviewers especially loved the photographs showing real Israeli children in everyday life.
2011 PICTURE BOOK AWARD
Mirror by Jeannie Baker (Candlewick Press, 2010).
Jeannie Baker’s Mirror uses creative binding to show the lives of Moroccan and Australian families side-by-side. Despite their differences, both families have similar routines and needs, therefore, the metaphor of a mirror. An introduction and author’s notes are provided in Arabic and English, however, the textless story is told through exquisitely detailed collages. Reviewers were highly impressed with the message, layout, and subtle teachings of Mirror with its opportunities for comparison, cultural analysis, and countering stereotypes.
2011 PICTURE BOOK HONORABLE MENTIONS
The Secret Message by Mina Javaherbin, illustrated by Bruce Whatley (Disney/Hyperion Books, 2010).
Based on a story by Rumi*, Mina Javaherbin’s The Secret Message describes an encaged parrot who finds a way to freedom and enlightens his keeper. The book will appeal to younger readers through its gorgeous presentation and a tale that could lead to discussion of the Silk Road and other folktales. Reviewers commented that the story makes the Silk Road personal, raises questions about captivity, loyalty, and fairness, and makes Rumi relevant for 21st century youth.
Time To Pray by Maha Addasi, illustrated by Ned Gannon (Boyds Mills Press, 2010).
Time to Pray provides clear explanation of Muslim prayers and aspects of Islamic practice such as performing ablutions prior to prayer and praying five times daily. The story revolves around a loving relationship between a girl and her grandmother and is enhanced by beautiful illustrations, including calligraphy. Reviewers commented that Time to Pray helps readers to learn about Islam in the rhythm of daily life, has strong educational value, and is a good story with females as the main characters.
2010 PICTURE BOOK AWARD
How Many Donkeys: An Arabic Counting Tale By Margaret Read McDonald, and Nadia Jameel Taibah, illustrated by Carol Liddiment (Albert Whitman & Company, 2009).
In this Saudi folktale, Jouha loads ten donkeys with dates to sell at the market. As he rides along, he counts only nine and believes one is lost. Yet, when he walks, he counts all ten and is grateful that the missing donkey is back. Jouha sells his dates and returns home with all his donkeys. Arabic numbers are used and provide a great introduction to these numerals and counting words as well as the Jouha/Joha/Goha/Hoca character known through the region.
2010 PICTURE BOOK HONORABLE MENTION
Kings And Carpenters: One Hundred Bible Land Jobs You Might Have Praised Or Panned by Laurie Coulter and Mary Newbigging (Annick Press, 2010).
Life was tough in the time of the Old Testament! A fact-filled introduction, detailed timeline and thorough index make this book perfect for research projects. The humorous illustrations and snappy text provide interesting reading. Younger readers will look at history in a whole new way thanks to this unique and entertaining approach.
2009 PICTURE BOOK AWARD
The Butter Man by Elizabeth Alalou and Ali Alalou (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2008).
While Nora waits for the couscous her father is cooking to be finished, he tells her a story about his youth in the high Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Every day, he would wait for the butter man to come..surely today would be the day. The reader meets the people who share his life in Berber villages of Morocco. Peppered with Amazigh (Berber) phrases, this story provides and introduction to Berber culture and includes author notes and a glossary. Delightful illustrations enhance the simple tale.
2009 PICTURE BOOK HONORABLE MENTION
The Grand Mosque Of Paris: A Story Of How Muslims Rescued Jews During The Holocaust by Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Durland DeSaix (Holiday House, 2009)
The Grand Mosque of Paris is based on a true story of how North African Muslims who oversaw the mosque hid Jews from the Nazi forces occupying France during World War II and possibly saving them from being sent to concentration camps in Eastern Europe. The story focuses on the many humanitarian deeds by Muslims and will help to break stereotypes as well as add to young readers’ understanding of the Holocaust. The illustrations are both beautiful and appropriate for the story.
2008 PICTURE BOOK AWARD
Silent Music: A Story Of Baghdad written and illustrated by James Rumford. (Roaring Brook Press, 2008).
This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of Ali, a young boy who lives in contemporary Baghdad. Ali loves playing soccer and listening to loud music, but more than that, he loves writing calligraphy. This celebration of writing and art invokes the story of the master calligrapher Yakut, who lived in Baghdad eight hundred years ago, also during a time of war. This timeless story is sure to enchant students and parents alike.
2008 PICTURE BOOK HONORABLE MENTIONS
Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Doug Chayka. (Books for Young Readers, 2007).
When aid workers deliver a shipment of clothes to their refugee camp, both Lina and Ferozi claim a sandal. When Ferozi’s grandmother points out the foolishness of wearing only one shoe, the girls decide to share the pair, each wearing them on alternating days. This story will engage students and help to put a human face on the plight of refugee children—especially useful in communities with large populations of former refugees.
The Best Eid Ever by Asma Mobin-Uddin, illustrated by Laura Jacobsen (Boyds Mills Press, 2007).
The Eid al-Adha (“Feast of the Sacrifice”) is the biggest holiday in the Islamic calendar, but this year Aneesa’s parents are in far away Saudi Arabia making the pilgrimage to Mecca. At the mosque, Aneesa meets two young girls, refugees who have just arrived in the U.S. from their war-torn country. Aneesa and her grandmother help the girls celebrate and make it the best Eid ever. This book will help students understand the importance of the Eid celebration, as well as the themes of charity and helping the less fortunate.
2007 PICTURE BOOK AWARD
One City, Two Brothers by Chris Smith, illustrated by Aurélia Fronty (Barefoot Books, 2007)
Written by a former worker with UNICEF and Oxfam in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, this re-telling of a traditional story from the time of King Solomon serves as a metaphor for the “wish for the people of Israel and Palestine to find peace.” The story describes the founding of the city of Jerusalem as related by King Solomon, as he seeks to settle an inheritance dispute between two brothers. A brief footnote at the end describes the importance of Jerusalem in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths.
2007 PICTURE BOOK HONORABLE MENTIONS
Count Your Way Through Iran by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson, illustrated by Farida Zaman (Millrook Press, 2007).
Using simple text, authors Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson introduce elementary age readers to Iranian culture by choosing words that fit the numbers one (yek) through ten (dah) in Persian. The book takes the reader the length and breadth of the country, from Omar Khayyam’s famous four line poems to the seven countries that border Iran. This book is an excellent non-political introduction to the rich culture of Iran for younger readers.
The Rich Man And The Parrot retold by Suzan Nadimi, illustrated by Ande Cook (Albert Whitman and Company, 2007).
The Rich Man and the Parrot comes from the Masnavi, a work by the thirteenth-century Persian poet Mevlana Jalal ad-Din Rumi (1207-1273). In this simple tale, a parrot, the beloved possession of a wealthy merchant, tricks his owner into setting him free. This culturally rich story reads easily and sends a strong message. 2007 has been declared “The Year of Rumi” by UNESCO in honor of the poet’s 800th birthday, and this is a wonderful way to introduce him to young readers.
2006 PICTURE BOOK AWARD
Lugalbanda, The Boy Who Got Caught Up In A War by Kathy Henderson, illustrator Jane Ray (Candlewick Press, 2006)
This five thousand-year-old story from ancient Sumer, now Iraq, focuses on Lugalbanda who is assumed to have been the father of Gilgamesh. While traveling with his father and older brothers on a military campaign, Lugalbanda is asked to undertake a dangerous mission—alone. His courage, honesty, and peace-seeking efforts bring honor to him and to his people. The story is based on Sumerian poems written in cuneiform tablets that were found in the 19th century. Illustrator Jane Ray studied Sumerian artifacts in the British Museum. This book warrants multiple readings with themes that will evoke connections over place and time.
2006 PICTURE BOOK HONORABLE MENTION
Mystery Bottle by Kristen Balouch, (Hyperion Books for Children, 2006).
Mystery Bottle is a tale of fantasy and imagination as a little boy in New York blows into a bottle and is carried to Iran where his father was born. He meets his grandfather and learns a bit about life in the land of his heritage. Pages are filled with all the many questions the boy would like to ask. Immigrants of various backgrounds who have strong connections and family members living in other parts of the world will relate to the story. Written for primary level, this heart-warming tale and colorful illustrations will engage readers of all ages.
2005 PICTURE BOOK AWARD
Alia’s Mission: Saving The Books Of Iraq By Mark Alan Stamaty (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004).
Inspired by a true story, Alia’s Mission recounts the heroic efforts of Alia Muhammad Baker—the chief librarian of the Central Library in Basra, Iraq—to preserve her country’s history and culture in the midst of war. When government officials ignored her pleas for help, Alia and her neighbors smuggled over 30,000 books to safety, where they remain until peace returns to her country. Her story, told here in graphic-novel style, will inspire children as well as adults.
2005 PICTURE BOOK HONORABLE MENTIONS
The Librarian Of Basra by Jeanette Winter (Harcourt, 2005).
This colorfully illustrated book tells the same true story as Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq, at a level appropriate for younger children. The librarian Alia and her neighbors show great courage and quick thinking as they save countless books from the Basra, Iraq library in the middle of war. The story will lead to discussion of facing challenges and taking pride in one’s heritage and culture.
The Travels Of Benjamin Of Tudela by Uri Shulevitz (Farrar Traus Giroux, 2005).
Beautifully illustrated, this is an account of the twelfth-century journeys of a Jewish traveler throughout the then-known world. His travels take him to Constantinople, Jerusalem, Baghdad, Persia, and Egypt.
2004 PICTURE BOOK AWARD
Muhammad Written and illustrated by Demi (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2003).
Demi portrays the Prophet Muhammad’s life in a richly colorful, two-dimensional Persian style, respecting Islamic tradition by omitting depictions of the Prophet and his family. The text introduces children to Muhammad in the way that Muslims perceive him: an honest, hardworking, and just leader, deserving of deep love and respect.
2002 PICTURE BOOK AWARD
Celebrating Ramadan by Diane Hoyt Goldsmith, with photographs by Lawrence Migdale (Holiday House, 2002)
A photo-essay format follows a fourth-grade Muslim boy living in New Jersey as he celebrates the holy month of Ramadan. The text and photographs work well together to convey information about both Islamic practice and , in a very personal way, the daily life and community of a Muslim-American family.
2001 PICTURE BOOK AWARD
Traveling Man: The Journey Of Ibn Battuta, 1325-1354 written and illustrated by James Rumford (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001).
This is an introduction to the journeys of Ibn Battuta, a Moroccan scholar who set off to make the pilgrimage to Mecca in 1325 and didn’t return for 29 years. His travels took him through Africa, across the steppes of Central Asia, into India and China, and finally back to Morocco. Blue, red, and gold are prominent colors in the striking illustrations, which are further embellished with Arabic and Chinese calligraphy. The text, illustrations, and occasional maps are interwoven throughout for a very effective presentation.
2000 PICTURE BOOK AWARD
The House Of Wisdom by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland, (DK Publishing, Inc., 1999)
Highly original, exciting, and illuminating illustrations by Mary Grandpre combine with a well written, very sophisticated theme. A young boy in 9th century Baghdad, inspired by his scholar father, goes on a search for knowledge and wisdom. The book sheds a bright light on the great work of scholars during this golden period of Islamic civilization.
2000 PICTURE BOOK HONORABLE MENTION
The Storytellers by Ted Lewin, (New York: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books, 1998).
This is a gentle story with beautiful illustrations, featuring a young boy and his grandfather who carry on the tradition of storytelling in the market place of Fez, Morocco. It is a splendid book for showing contemporary Morocco to young people.
2014 YOUTH LITERATURE AWARD
Fear of Beauty by Susan Froetschel, Seventh Street Books, 2013
Fear of Beauty by Susan Froetschel offers a compelling portrait of a rural Afghanistan village, Laashekoh, and its complex relationship with a recently established American military outpost. All of the novel’s players–villagers, Americans, and Taliban–work to figure out each other’s multiple, and sometimes conflicting intentions. The novel begins with a mysterious death and maintains this initial tension. Weaving back and forth between the voice of Joey, the American Special Operations officer, and Sofi, the clever and knowledgeable Afghani mother, Froetschel creates suspense right up to the final and surprising revelation. With complex perspectives on a changing Afghanistan, the U.S. role there, and gender issues, Fear of Beauty is both educational and entertaining.
2013 YOUTH LITERATURE AWARD
The Girl Who Fell To Earth: A Memoir by Sophia Al-Maria (Harper Perennial, 2012)
With its insight into the rapidly changing society in the Gulf, the memoir focuses on a character caught between two worlds, one of her American mother and the other of her Qatari Bedouin father. By revealing conditions elsewhere in the world, readers will be more aware of similarities, good and unfortunate, between the “other” culture and their own. The narrator’s engaging and witty voice weaves references from Eastern and Western culture in the 1980s and now. Where else could you read about the starry night in the desert; Carl Sagan’s videos; star-crossed lovers from East and West; the “oilification” of the Gulf, or David Bowie as an alien? Humor, surprises, and plot twists will appeal to readers.
2013 YOUTH LITERATURE HONORABLE MENTIONS
A Game For Swallows: To Die, To Leave, To Return By Zeina Abirached (Graphic Universe, 2012)
With its compelling plot, characterization, and imagery, this graphic novel gives faces and stories to families from the Lebanese civil war. Its historical content focuses on the civic geography of living so close to a green zone which divides a city during a war. It is a story about families, war, survival, and above all community. The stark black blocked illustrations work well to convey the content of fear during war. Game for Swallows is a book for all ages; young readers will see two children like themselves whose parents are away but who are looked after by other adults. Older readers will be interested in the story’s background and why the author created the book as she did.
A Fort Of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story by Qais Akbar Omar (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2012)
Described from an Afghan youth’s point of view, A Fort of Nine Towers gives a vivid, intimate, and detailed picture of life in another culture and the violence besetting the society of Afghanistan in the 1980s and 90s. The memoir is a complex cultural tapestry of a range of Afghan tribes and dialects through the travels made across nine years of fleeing to safety during the war. The narrator’s openness to the novelty and differences amongst the people he and his family meet contrasts with the strife bred by religious differences between warring factions. This provides both content and new new perspectives for readers.
2012 YOUTH LITERATURE CO-AWARDS
Alif The Unseen by G. Willow Wilson (Grove Press, 2012).
Alif the Unseen is a witty fantasy written for the cyber age and its youthful inhabitants. During the course of a mythical and political thriller, it teaches about Islam, jinns, gender relations, Gulf politics, the importance of freedom with responsibility, and more. With themes that teenagers will embrace, settings that fascinate, and characters that are bizarre and entertaining, it is a book in which high school students will explore a gritty fantasy world of both magical and internet wizardry, grounded in the issues and complexities of the Middle East. Note: some strong language and sexual content.
Jerusalem: Chronicles From The Holy City by Guy Delisle (Drawn and Quarterly, 2012).
Jerusalem is a graphic ‘novel’ that gives an account of daily life in contemporary Israel by an outsider who is unsentimental but drawn in, bemused but empathetic. Delisle, a Canadian, sees and wonders at the complications, absurdities, and joys of living in East Jerusalem, and explores other communities in Israel and the Occupied Territories. He came with little knowledge and few preconceptions, but while on the ground, he provides a map for students, teachers, and readers for what it’s like to live and travel in this complex region. His drawings are informative and entertaining. They will draw students in and delight teachers.
2011 YOUTH LITERATURE AWARD
Where The Streets Had A Name by Randa Abdel-Fattah (Scholastic Press, 2010).
Abdel-Fattah’s Where the Streets Had a Name offers an intriguing story set in today’s Palestine, where political realities press in on daily life. The narrative is real, sensitive, and often very funny. The young main characters (both Muslim and Christian) are well-developed and easy to relate to, and their adventures on the way to Jerusalem will appeal to young readers. One teacher reviewer commented, “I appreciated the fact that the author’s telling showed multiple perspectives on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, but did so without sounding preachy from any one perspective.”
2010 YOUTH LITERATURE AWARD
Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2011).
In July, 2001, as 11-year-old Fadi and his family hastily board a truck to begin their escape from Afghanistan, his younger sister Miriam lets go of her brother’s hand and tragically, is left behind. Their arrival in San Francisco is bittersweet as they are all too concerned about Miriam to appreciate their newfound safety and freedom. This age-appropriate tale relevant to current events shows Fadi struggling to integrate himself into his American middle school and trying to find a way back to Afghanistan to find his sister.
2009 YOUTH LITERATURE AWARD
Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan (Groundwood Books, 2009).
Inspired by a true story, Jameela and her father seek a new life in Kabul after the death of her mother (“Mor” in Dari). Jameela ends up in an orphanage after being abandoned by her opium-addicted father and his new wife. The reader will be fully engaged as Jameela learns how to survive and mature in a patriarchal and traditional society.
2009 YOUTH LITERATURE HONORABLE MENTIONS
A Bottle In The Gaza Sea by Valerie Zenatti (Blooomsbury Publishing PLC, 2008).
Tal Levine is an Israeli teenager who longs to strike up conversation with “someone on the other side”. She convinces her brother who serves in the Israeli Defense Forces to through a bottle with a message into the Gaza Sea. Her message ends up with “Gazaman,” a Palestinian teenage boy. As their email messages continue, deeper communication occurs which shows the complexity of the political situation and their virtual relationship. Both young people experience difficulties which will stimulate discussion and follow-up classroom activities.
Extra Credit by Andrew Clements (Atheneum Books, 2009).
A sixth grade student in Illinois is not interested in her school work but agrees to do an extra credit assignment involving writing to a pen pal in another country. She begins communicating with a boy and his sister in rural Afghanistan and problems develop on both sides. The characters are complex and will be engaging for upper elementary and middle school readers.
2008 YOUTH LITERATURE AWARD
The Apprentice’s Masterpiece: A Story Of Medieval Spain By Melanie Little (Annick Press, 2007).
Set in Spain, 1485, this book tells the story of two teens in Córdoba after the reconquest: one is from a Jewish family that has converted to Christianity during the Inquisition, the other a Muslim boy given to them as a slave. Through passages written in verse, the tale of these of these two boys unfolds as they witness the end of Spain’s military campaign against the Moors and face their own uncertain futures in a country flush with nationalistic fervor that views them with suspicion. This book is simply written, but contains powerful and haunting imagery that will engage even adult readers.
2007 YOUTH LITERATURE AWARD
Tasting The Sky: A Palestinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007).
In this powerful, groundbreaking memoir, Ibtisam Barakat captures what it is like to be a child whose world is shattered by war. While Tasting the Sky deals with many specifically Palestinian issues, it also explores universal themes of conflict with parents and society, the impact of war on children, and living a positive life despite hardships and tragedies. If connecting with the reader is an important aspect of literature, then this book accomplishes that goal.
2006 YOUTH LITERATURE AWARD
A Little Piece Of Ground by Elizabeth Laird with assistance from Sonia Nimr (Haymarket Books, 2006; originally published in England by Macmillan UK in 2003)
A Little Piece of Ground focuses on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the eyes of a twelve-year-old Palestinian boy in Ramallah. His aspirations, sibling rivalry, and efforts at maintaining friendships transcend the conflict and physical setting. Frustrations and fears surface as youth manage daily life with curfews, unpredictability in access to school, and challenges in finding a place to play soccer. The strength of the family, relationships among Palestinians and encounters with Israelis are presented with complexity and in ways that will cause readers to think about the conflict and the responses of those most affected by it.
2005 YOUTH LITERATURE AWARD
Figs And Fate by Elsa Marston (George Braziller, 2005).
Five short stories about growing up in the Arab world today are told from the perspective of young Arab teens living in Syria, Lebanon, a Palestinian refugee camp, Egypt, and Iraq. Marston beautifully details the rich culture of the main characters and their families, in the process helping to dispel negative stereotypes associated with young adults living in these societies. Their personal struggles, ideals, goals, and dreams will be surprisingly familiar to the experience of young people elsewhere.
2003 YOUTH LITERATURE AWARD
19 Varieties Of Gazelle By Naomi Shihab Nye (Greenwillow Books, 2002).
Acclaimed poet Nye compiled this moving collection of poignant moments and memories of Jerusalem, Palestine, and her family after September 11, 2001. It serves as a testimony to the painfulness of war, the yearning for peace, and the universal strength of the human spirit.
2002 YOUTH LITERATURE AWARD
The Breadwinner By Deborah Ellis (Groundwood Books, 2002).
Set in Afghanistan in the mid 1990s, much of the story takes place in the small apartment where a young girl named Parvana lives with her family, and in the marketplace where her father markets his skills as a reader and scribe. Through Parvana’s experiences, the impact of Taliban rule on everyday life is conveyed, as is the ability of the human spirit to confront and conquer adversity.
2001 YOUTH LITERATURE AWARD
Samir And Yonatan by Daniella Carmi (Scholastic, 2000 [English edition]).
Translated from Hebrew, this story is told in the first-person by Samir, a Palestinian boy who finds himself awaiting surgery in an Israeli hospital. The relationships that develop between Samir and some of the Israeli children there with him in the ward testify to the possibilities for individuals to transcend the violence around them and to make peace.
2000 YOUTH LITERATURE AWARD
Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye (Simon and Schuster, 1997)
The recipient of many awards, Habibi is the story of 14-year old Liyana, who moved from Missouri to her father’s hometown of Jerusalem. At first it is a most unwelcome change for this American teenager and her family. Gradually, through new friends and relatives, she comes to an understanding of her father’s culture, and finds her place in it. This is a well-written, very interesting novel, which holds one’s attention throughout and portrays various issues that confront Jews and Arabs in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
2013 YOUTH NON-FICTION CO-AWARDS
The Compassionate Warrior: Abd El-Kader Of Algeria By Elsa Marston (Wisdom Tales, 2013)
This well-written account of a 19th century Algerian freedom fighter, Abd el-Kader, who won respect in the West for his humanitarian values and compassionate policies during the struggle against French colonialism. In fact, Abd el-Kader is commended by Abraham Lincoln, has a town in Iowa named after him, and is the subject of a yearly essay competition for U.S. high school students. Evaluators felt that this book will be an excellent addition to any high school classroom or library because of its clear, interesting writing style and relevance to world history, U.S. history, and Constitution classes.
The Arab World Thought Of It: Inventions, Innovations, And Amazing Facts by Saima Hussain (Annick Press, 2013)
This wonderful, compelling book has been described as having “sufficient text to explain the beautiful photography.” Middle school and high school students will love learning about developments in the medieval Islamic world that affect our lives today. They will be intrigued by stories – and photos – showing how soap was invented, how the scalpel was developed for use in surgery, how wind was first harnessed for power, and many others. Teachers will love the accompanying map, timeline, and index, which make the book useful and informative as well as fun.
2012 YOUTH NON-FICTION CO-AWARDS
Beyond Bullets: A Photo Journal Of Afghanistan by Rafal Gerszak (Annick Press, 2012).
Beyond Bullets documents photo-journalist Rafal Gerszak’s experiences during the year that he spent embedded with American forces in Afghanistan. However, it is much more than a war story. There are textures and layers to the book as the author struggles to get beneath the surface and reach a deeper understanding of life in Afghanistan. Reviewers commented that the book “shows the power of photojournalism and gave a unique perspective” and that it is especially powerful for high school students whose parents served in Afghanistan but have not yet unwrapped the experience. Overall, the book is an insightful, highly personal reflection.
Bye Bye Babylon: Beirut 1975-1979 by Lamia Ziade (Interlink Publishing Group, 2012).
Bye Bye Babylon is a graphic novel/memoir of the author’s experiences as a child (age 7-11) in war-torn Lebanon. Reviewers described the book as “fun and colorful” but also appreciated how it “took the graphic novel approach a little further by adding historical context to the memoir.” They concluded that young people will love it – and will also learn more about the transformation of everyday life in Beirut during the 1970s conflict.
2012 YOUTH NON-FICTION HONORABLE MENTION
Living Through The Arab-Israeli War Since 1948 by Alex Woolf (Heinemann-Raintree, 2012).
Living through the Arab-Israeli War since 1948 is commended as an excellent resource on the Arab Israeli conflict because of its “honest attempt to present both sides while not offending any moderates.” It is also very readable, making a complex subject accessible to a high school audience.
2011 YOUTH NON-FICTION CO-AWARDS
How To Understand Israel In 60 Days Or Less by Sarah Glidden (Vertigo, 2011).
How To Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less is a graphic “novel”/true account in which the author, a Jewish American, describes her heritage trip to Israel and her attempts to come to grips with the complex social and political situation in that country. High school readers will appreciate the colorful illustrations and the travel story; more discerning readers will also respect the thoughtful, balanced look at modern Israel.
The Genius Of Islam: How Muslims Made The Modern World by Bryn Barnard (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2011).
The Genius of Islam: How Muslims Made the Modern World is an excellent introduction to the inventions and innovations of the medieval Muslim world. Rather than attempting a thorough chronicling of the subject, Barnard highlights a few representative topics – for example, optical science, the development of paper, and calligraphy. Late elementary, middle school, and even older readers will love the book’s wonderful illustrations and organization into short, manageable topics.
2010 YOUTH NON-FICTION AWARD
A BRIEF HISTORY OF SAUDI ARABIA by James Wynbrandt (Checkmark Books, 2010).
In recent years, Saudi Arabia has experienced changes that have altered the internal structure of the country and affected its foreign relations. Many publications continue to propagate stereotypes about the Kingdom and pay little attention to recent developments. Written in a clear, concise style, this book is accessible for younger readers but informative enough for upper grades as well.
2010 YOUTH NON-FICTION HONORABLE MENTION
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MUSLIM-AMERICAN HISTORY by Edward E. Curtis IV, editor (Facts on File, 2010).
This illustrated two-volume encyclopedia includes 300 articles covering diverse subjects such as contemporary and historical events and issues, people, court cases, and activism. Also included are 50 original documents, a master chronology, and an extensive bibliography. Given that little has been published on this topic, especially for a younger audience, this book is a welcomed addition to the field.
2009 YOUTH NON-FICTION AWARD
The Iranian Revolution by Brendan January (Twenty-First Century Books, 2008).
Part of the Pivotal Moments That Changed the World series, this book focuses on the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Its clear writing is thorough and draws on primary sources. Rather than using the “clash of civilizations” argument, author Brendan January delves into the deeper causes of the revolution. It is a useful resource for historical research and builds a foundation upon which students can examine U.S.-Iranian relations today.
2009 YOUTH NON-FICTION HONORABLE MENTIONS
The Illustrated Encyclopaedia Of Arabia by Mary Beardwood (Stacey International Publishing, 2009).
All aspects of the Arabian Peninsula are covered in this detailed encyclopaedia which includes entries on geography, culture, flora, and fauna. Through photographs, charts, maps, tables, and interesting notes, this resource will enhance understanding of wide-ranging subjects such as pearling, migratory birds, fossils, and uses for the date palm.
The Middle East Today: Political, Geographical & Cultural Perspectives by Dona J. Stewart (Routledge, 2008).
Intended as a university textbook, author Dona Stewart provides a concise introduction to the contemporary Middle East. Short, easy to digest segments are augmented by text boxes and maps on historical, cultural, and political topics. Although too advanced for some high school students, it should be a great resources for Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classrooms or libraries.
2008 YOUTH NON-FICTION AWARD
Extraordinary Women From The Muslim World by Natalie Maydell and Sep Riahi, illustrated by Heba Amin. (Global Content Ventures, 2007).
This encyclopedic book provides short pieces on a wide variety of notable women from throughout Islamic history. From wives of Muhammad to an African poetess to a Turkish fighter pilot to an Indonesian freedom fighter to an Egyptian singer, this book dispels nearly every stereotype about Muslim women, and introduces many famous female role models to a younger audience for the first time.
2007 YOUTH NON-FICTION CO-AWARDS
Iraq (Modern World Nation Series) by Dale Lightfoot, Charles F. Gritzner, series editor (Chelsea House Publishers, 2007).
Part of the Modern Nations Series, the volume on Iraq is clearly written, well-organized, and nicely illustrated with high quality photos and maps. Written by a former contractor who worked with Iraqi universities to rebuild the country’s educational program, this book gives a thorough overview of Iraq’s culture, geography, and history. These flourishes, that could only be written by someone who has been there, give the text greater authenticity and place it over many of the other resources rushed to print after the 2003 U.S. invasion.
Opposing Viewpoints: Iran (Opposing Viewpoints Series), Laura K. Egendorf, editor (Greenhaven Press, 2006).
Part of the critically acclaimed Opposing Viewpoints series, this volume on Iran continues the series’ tradition of using short primary documents to encourage readers to familiarize themselves with opposing answers to posed questions: Is Iran a Threat to Global Security? What is the Future of Iran? The strength of the series is that it encourages its readers to understand both sides of an argument, rather than creating an arbitrary middle ground or attempting to decide which view is right or wrong. This is an excellent resource for secondary level educators that also can be appreciated by the lay reader looking for more information on a timely subject.
2006 YOUTH NON-FICTION AWARD
The Illustrator’s Notebook by Mohieddin Ellabbad (Groundwood Books, 2006)
The famous Egyptian illustrator Mohieddin Ellabbad presents his “notebook” which shares how he grew up and took on his profession. He uses text, photographs, drawings, and Arabic script to communicate his aspirations as an artist. Most compelling are the questions he raises for readers, for example, “Where do stories come from?” Younger readers will be delighted by how he combines images and shows the change in his country. In this wonderfully creative and unique book, Ellabbad offers Egyptian history, breaks stereotypes, shares his personal story, and inspires readers to reflect upon their own experiences.
2006 YOUTH NON-FICTION HONORABLE MENTIONS
Great Muslim Philosophers And Scientists In The Middle Ages, six-part series (Rosen Publishing Group, 2006). The series includes: Albucasis (Abu al-Qasim Al-Zahrawi): Renowned Muslim Surgeon of the Tenth Century by Fred Ramen; Averroes (Ibn Rushd): Muslim Scholar, Philosopher, and Physician of the Twelfth Century by Liz Sonneborn; Avicenna (Ibn Sina): Muslim Physician and Philosopher of the Eleventh Century by Aisha Khan; Al-Biruni: Master Astronomer and Muslim Scholar of the Eleventh Century by Bill Scheppler; Al-Khwarizmi: the Inventor of Algebra by Corona Brezina; and Al-Kindi: The Father of Arab Philosophy by Tony Abboud.
The many contributions of Muslim scholars to science, philosophy, and development of knowledge across various disciplines are presented in this powerful series. These richly illustrated books provide excellent reference sources and interesting biographical reading for intermediate level students and above. Linkages are made among the scientists and philosophers and others in different eras and regions. Such a series is highly significant at a time when U.S. schools are seeking resources for teaching about non-Western history, religions, and cultural groups.
Lebanon A To Z: A Middle Eastern Mosaic by Marijean Boueri, Jill Boutros, and Joanne Sayad, illustrated by Tatiana Sabbagh (Publishing Works, 2005).
Kareem, an eleven year-old Lebanese boy, and his friends of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, proudly introduce many aspects of their country. Using the letters of the English alphabet, topics such as Diversity, Gibran, Olives, Phoenicians, and War are some of the themes presented. The languages of Lebanon figure prominently as Arabic and French words are interspersed throughout the text. Readers will learn from detailed and colorful illustrations that feature images of Lebanese history, culture, and daily life.
2005 YOUTH NON-FICTION AWARD
Historical Atlas Of Islam by Malise Ruthven and Azim Nanji (Harvard University Press, 2004).
This beautifully illustrated history of Islam provides a broad overview of the economic, social, political, and cultural history of the Islamic world from the birth of the Prophet Muhammad to the present. Brief essays address pivotal moments and movements and eras, and color maps and photographs effectively complement the text throughout. Clear and concise, this book serves as an excellent introduction to Islamic civilization.
2004 YOUTH NON-FICTION CO-AWARDS
Mosque by David Macaulay (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003).
Macauley’s masterful work provides step-by-step details and diagrams of the construction of a fictional sixteenth century Ottoman mosque. As the author walks the reader through the engineering and artistry of the structure, he reveals the mosque’s diverse functions in the community.
Teen Life In The Middle East by Ali Akbar Mahdi, editor (Greenwood Press, 2003).
This compilation offers insights into the interests, family and social lives, religious practices, and culture of teens in twelve profiled countries.
2004 YOUTH NON-FICTION HONORABLE MENTIONS
Witness To History: Afghanistan by David Downing (Heinemann Library, 2004).
Although not technically a Middle Eastern country, Afghanistan is directly linked to the region through politics, religion, and cultural sharing. This small volume clarifies many perspectives and experiences in a conflict while much in the news remains little understood among readers in the U.S.
A History Of The Muslim World To 1405: The Making Of A Civilization by Vernon O. Egger (Prentice Hall, 2003).
This well-written and comprehension small text, intended for university level readers, is noteworthy for its clear style in presenting sophisticated themes. Egger avoids clichés common in introductory works, and provides historical facts and analysis that are accessible to the high school level readers.
2003 YOUTH NON-FICTION AWARD
Women In The Middle East: Tradition And Change by Ramsay Harik and Elsa Marston (revised edition, Franklin Watts, 2003).
In a comprehensive look at Middle Eastern women, readers grow in understanding of women’s struggle to incorporate both tradition and change in their daily lives. This book is a major contribution to resources on a topic of wide interest. Of particular note, the revised edition includes two chapters that cover the experience of women in Afghanistan and women’s health issues region-wide.
2001 YOUTH NON-FICTION AWARD
Islam by Sue Penney (World Beliefs and Cultures series, Heinemann Library, 2001).
Written for the upper elementary level, this reference book clearly and accurately describes Islam’s origins, the development of Islamic civilization, and the religion’s basic beliefs and practices. Sections on family life and celebrations help to convey the role of Islam in the everyday lives of real people.