2023 Award winner
MAMA SHAMSI AT THE BAZAAR
by Mojdeh Hassani & Samira Iravani; illustrated by Maya Fidawi (Dial Books, 2023)
Mama Shamsi is off to the market, and Samira is joining her for the very first time! As they get closer to the bustling bazaar, Samira worries about getting lost in the crowd and comes up with a way to stick close to her grandma. This is a gentle and playful story, set in Iran, about new experiences and love between a grandmother and her granddaughter, written by a mother-daughter duo and illustrated by award-winning artist Maya Fidawi. PreK-Grade 3.
2023 HONORABLE MENTIONS
by Zeena M. Pliska; illustrated by Hatem Aly (Roaring Brook Press, 2023)
A rich, beautifully layered ode to the great city of Cairo, Egypt, its people, and culture. Each night, a young girl's Auntie Fatma puts her to bed, singing a lullaby filled with rich imagery of her home in Egypt. It is filled with memories of the flowing Nile, the busy streets, the vibrant city. Grades 1-2.
2022 Award winner
LOUJAIN DREAMS OF SUNFLOWERS: A STORY INSPIRED BY LOUJAIN ALHATHLOUL
by Lina AlHathloul and Uma Mishra-Newbery; Illustrated by Rebecca Green (mineditionUS, 2022)
Every morning Loujain watches her baba attach his feather wings and fly, but her own dreams of flying face a big obstacle: only boys, not girls, are allowed to fly. Yet despite the taunts of her classmates, she is determined to do it-especially because Loujain loves colors, and only by flying can she see the color-filled field of sunflowers her baba has told her about. Eventually, he agrees to teach her, and Loujain's impossible dream becomes reality-and soon other girls dare to learn to fly. Based on the experiences of co-author Lina AlHathloul's sister, Nobel Peace Prize nominee Loujain AlHathloul, who led the successful campaign to lift Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving, this moving and gorgeously illustrated story reminds us to strive for the changes we want to see-and to never take for granted women's and girls' freedoms. Ages 4-8/P K-3rd grade
2022 HONORABLE MENTIONS
A SKY-BLUE BENCH
by Bahram Rahman; illustrated by Peggy Collins (Pajama Press, 2021)
It's Aria's first day back at school since her accident. She's excited, but she's also worried about sitting on the hard floor all day with her new prosthetic "helper-leg." She knows that before the war changed many things in Afghanistan, schools like hers had benches for students to sit at. If she had a bench, her leg would not hurt so much. The solution to this problem is obvious to her, so she gets to work. Bahram Rahman, author of The Library Bus, reveals again the resilience and resolve of young children - especially young girls - who face barriers to education. An author's note gently introduces an age-appropriate discussion of land mines and their impact on the lives of children in many nations, especially Afghanistan, which has the highest concentration of land mines of any country in the world. Ages 4-7/Pre-K-2nd grade
NOUR'S SECRET LIBRARY
by Wafa' Tarnowska; Illustrated by Vali Mintzi (Barefoot Books, 2022)
Forced to take shelter when their Syrian city is plagued with bombings, young Nour and her cousin begin to bravely build a secret underground library. Based on the author's own life experience and inspired by a true story, Nour's Secret Library is about the power of books to heal, transport and create safe spaces during difficult times. Illustrations by Romanian artist Vali Mintzi superimpose the colorful world the children construct over black-and-white charcoal depictions of the battered city. Author's and illustrator's notes provide historical significance of libraries, books and artworks in different cultures and time periods during times of war. As the co-director of the secret library of Daraya, Abu el-Ezz said, "Books are our way to wipe out ignorance." Ages 6-10/1-4th Grade
2021 Award winners
THE LIBRARY BUS
by Bahram Rahman; Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard (Pajama Press, 2020)
It is still dark in Kabul, Afghanistan when the library bus rumbles out of the city. There are no bus seats―instead there are chairs and tables and shelves of books. And there are no passengers―instead there is Pari, who is nervously starting her first day as Mama’s library helper. Pari stands tall to hand out notebooks and pencils at the villages and the refugee camp, but she feels intimidated. The girls they visit are learning to write English from Mama. Pari can’t even read or write in Farsi yet. But next year she will go to school and learn all there is to know. And she is so lucky. Not long ago, Mama tells her, girls were not allowed to read at all. Author Bahram Rahman grew up in Afghanistan during years of civil war and the restrictive Taliban regime. He wrote this book to tell new generations about the struggles of women who, like his sister, were forbidden to learn. The story is brought to life by pensive and captivating artwork of illustrator Gabrielle Grimard. Ages 5-8/ K-3rd grade
2021 HONORABLE MENTIONs
SEVEN SPECIAL SOMETHINGS
by Adib Khorram; Illustrated by Zainab Faidhi (Dial Books, 2021)
Kian can't wait for Persian New Year! His family has already made a haft-seen arrangement, and Kian's baba and maman told him that all the things on it start with S and will bring them joy in the new year. Kian wonders if he could add just one more S, to make his family even happier. Hmm . . . Sonny the cat's name starts with S--but Sonny knocks the whole table over! Can Kian find seven special somethings to make a new haft-seen before his family arrives for their Nowruz celebration? Author Adib Khorram and illustrator Zainab Faidhi have created a colorful and comical book, perfect to be read with early readers who will be able to identify the letter ‘s’ in the special objects. Ages 4-8/Pre-K-3rd grade
SONG OF THE OLD CITY
by Anna Pellicioli; Illustrated by Merve Atilgan (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2020)
Follow one little girl on her busy day through the old city of Istanbul--from the Galata bridge to the Grand Bazaar--as the city opens its arms to her. All along the way, the generous people she meets share many gifts with her: sesame rounds, hot tea, a boat ride, rose candy, pomegranate juice, even a scrub in a Turkish bath! But she doesn't just keep the gifts for herself. At every turn, she finds a way to share what has been given to her and pass it on so others can enjoy it too. With poetic text and radiant artwork, author Anna Pellicioli and Turkish illustrator Merve Atilgan bring us this heartwarming tale of kindness and generosity in the city known as the crossroads of the world. Ages 4-7/Pre-K-2nd grade
2020 Award winners
SALMA THE SYRIAN CHEF
by Danny Ramadan, illustrated by Anna Bron (Annick Press, 2020)
Salma and her mother have recently arrived in Vancouver and all Salma wants to do is make her mama smile again. Between English classes, job interviews, and missing Papa back in Syria, Mama always seems busy or sad. A homemade Syrian meal might cheer her up! The staff and other newcomers at the Welcome Center are happy to help out. Syrian culture is beautifully represented through the meal Salma prepares and the diverse cast of characters speaks to the power of cultivating community in challenging circumstances. Accessible for readers ages 4-7/ Pre-K-2nd grade.
THE CAT MAN OF ALEPPO
by Irene Latham and Karim Shamsi-Basha, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2020).
When war came to Syria, many fled the once-beautiful city of Aleppo and were forced to become refugees in faraway places. But Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel, an ambulance driver, stayed behind. He cared for his neighbors in need and used what little money he had to buy food for the city's abandoned cats. Now known worldwide as the Cat Man of Aleppo, Alaa's courageous and heartening story is brought to life in this book and its gorgeous illustrations
2020 HONORABLE MENTION
by Taghreed Najjar, illustrated by Hassan Manasra; translated from Arabic by Michel Moushabeck (Crocodile Books, 2019).
The villagers are afraid of the "Ghoul". For years, they have tiptoed around out of fear of disturbing this monster which is believed to eat humans until one day brave Hassan embarks on a dangerous mission to face the long-feared Ghoul. What does he discover at the top of the mountain? This is a beautifully illustrated story that can be used as a springboard to discuss how we perceive those who are different and how our fears and prejudices may be built on false assumptions.
2019 Award winners
A DROP OF THE SEA
by Ingrid Chabbert, illustrated by Guridi (Kids Can Press, 2018)
Ali lives with his great-grandmother in a tiny clay house at the edge of the desert. Just her and him. Just him and her. They don't need anything more to be happy. But lately, Ali has begun to notice how his great-grandmother has aged. And one day, he asks if her life's dreams have come true. All except one, she tells him. She had a dream to see the sea, but now she is too old to go. So, the next morning, Ali sets off with a pail in hand. He is going to make his great-grandmother's final dream come true. He is going to bring the sea to her. Accessible for early readers (K-2nd grade), this beautiful story shows the concern and empathy of a child and how the dreams of one generation can be fulfilled in the next.
RIDING A DONKEY BACKWARDS: WISE AND FOOLISH TALES OF MULLA NASRUDDIN
retold by Sean Taylor & The Khayaal Theatre; illustrated by Shirin Adl (Candlewick, 2019)
Would you like to know how a thief can turn into a donkey? Whether a cow can climb a pole? Or why you should spoon yogurt into a lake? Mulla Nasruddin knows all the answers, and he might also tell you why he rides his donkey backwards. Whether in the guise of an imam in a mosque or a beggar in the street, this trickster is never at a loss for a rejoinder, though it may leave you scratching your head, rolling your eyes, or laughing out loud. The trickster Mulla Nasruddin has many names: In Turkey, he is Hodja; in Central Asia, Afandi; in Egypt, he is Goha. This book is filled with twenty-one tales all creatively illustrated that are sure to make the reader laugh and think. This book of folklore is accessible for later elementary school readers (3rd-4th grades or early middle school).
2019 HONORABLE MENTIONS
MY GRANDMA AND ME
by Mina Javaherbin, illustrated by Lindsey Yankey (Candlewick, 2019)
While Mina is growing up in Iran, the center of her world is her grandmother. Whether visiting friends next door, going to the mosque for midnight prayers during Ramadan, or taking an imaginary trip around the planets, Mina and her grandma are never far apart. At once deeply personal and utterly universal, Mina Javaherbin’s words make up a love letter of the rarest sort: the kind that shares a bit of its warmth with every reader. Soft, colorful, and full of intricate patterns, Lindsey Yankey’s illustrations feel like a personal invitation into the coziest home, and the adoration between Mina and her grandma is evident on every page.
by Nadine Kaadan (Lantana Publishing, 2018)
Yazan no longer goes to the park to play, and he no longer sees his friend who lives next door. Everything around him is changing. His parents sit in front of the television with the news turned up LOUD and Yazan's little red bike leans forgotten against the wall. Will he ever be able to go outside and play? An uplifting story about a courageous little boy growing up in a time of conflict, and the strength of family love.
2018 Award winner
by Desirée Calderón de Falaz (Yogi Impressions, 2017)
When Maya discovers that her grandma, Tata (the most unusual granny around town), is concealing a pair of magical earrings under her headscarf, she immediately wants to find out how she got them and what makes them so special. This story and its illustrations allow readers to embark on a colorful trip around the world with Tata as she retells the story of how these magical earrings were created due to grandpa’s acts of compassion and his constant quest for social justice for all people, across all faiths and cultures.
2018 honorable mention
CRESCENT MOONS AND POINTED MINARETS: A MUSLIM BOOK OF SHAPES
by Hena Khan, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini (Chronicle Books, 2018)
From a crescent moon, to a square garden, to an octagonal fountain, this breathtaking picture book celebrates the shapes and traditions stemming from Islam and predominantly Muslim contexts. Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets is a beautiful picture book that simultaneously explores shapes, Islam, and the cultures of Muslim people. It would equally be at home in a classroom reading circle and on a parent's lap being read to a child and will inspire questions and observations about world religions and cultures.
2017 award winner
LOST AND FOUND CAT: THE TRUE STORY OF KUNKUSH’S INCREDIBLE JOURNEY
by Doug Kuntz & Amy Shrodes, illustrated by Sue Conelison (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017).
This heartwarming true story about one lost cat’s journey to be reunited with his refugee family gently introduces children to a difficult topic and shows how ordinary people can help with compassion and hope. Based on a true story, Lost and Found Cat sheds light on the perilous journey that many refugees from the Middle East have embarked upon. The story is clear and hopeful, and provides an important educational message that individual people can make a difference. Many children can relate to losing a pet, providing them with a way to empathize with the family in the story. The illustrations are beautiful and clearly communicate the action for the reader. The endnotes with photos are powerful and will likely engage slightly older readers even more.
2017 Honorable Mentions
MY BEAUTIFUL BIRDS
by Suzanne Del Rizzo (Pajama Press, 2017).
A young Syrian boy is forced with his family to leave home and seek shelter in a refugee camp. But he can’t forget the pigeons he left behind at home. My Beautiful Birds offers an opportunity for children to learn about life in a refugee camp. The story addresses both loss and regained hope, and children will be attracted to the unique clay-creation illustrations that present beautiful textures and colors.
STEPPING STONES: A REFUGEE FAMILY’S JOURNEY
by Margriet Ruurs, translated by Falah Raheem, illustrated by Nizar Ali Badr (Orca Book Publishers, 2016).
Stepping Stones tells the story of Rama and her family, who are forced to flee their once-peaceful village to escape the ravages of the civil war raging ever closer to their home. With only what they can carry on their backs, Rama and her mother, father, grandfather and brother, Sami, set out to walk to freedom in Europe. This story is told in both Arabic and English on each page. The stone art illustrations by Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr are powerful and will inspire students to create their own stone art. The book presents many opportunities for discussion such as using what you have, perseverance and migration, among others. The book ends with a listing of organizations who are working in relief efforts allowing readers to take informed action.
2015 Award Winner
WHEN THE ANIMALS SAVED EARTH: AN ECO-FABLE
retold by Alexis York Lumbard, illustrated by Demi (Wisdom Tales, 2015).
In the retelling of this timely 1000-year-old fable found in Muslim, Christian, and Jewish traditions, only animals lived on an island in complete harmony. When humans entered the peaceful setting, all changed negatively for the animals and the environment. A wise boy, a talkative lion, and a spirit leader find a peaceful solution to the conflict and endangerment of the animals and natural world. The well-written story will raise many discussion topics for students. Stunning and colorful illustrations by award-winning illustrator Demi will engage and appeal to lower and upper elementary level students, their teachers, and parents.
2015 Honorable Mentions
NEW MONTH/NEW MOON by Allison Ofanansky, photographs by Eliyahu Alpern (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2014).
Part of a series on Jewish holidays and nature in Israel, New Month/New Moon focuses on the Rosh Chodesh which celebrates the arrival of each new moon. An Israeli family goes into the desert to learn about introductory level astronomy and the desert environment. Elementary level readers will learn about the movement of the moon and the lunar calendar which is significant to both Jews and Muslims. Young readers will enjoy and learn from photographs of a simple science demonstration, interaction among family members, and animal life. The author also included directions for extended learning in the classroom or at home, words in Hebrew, and background information on Rosh Chodesh.
THE OLIVE TREE
by Elsa Marston, illustrator Claire Ewart (Wisdom Tales, 2014).
Set in Lebanon, The Olive Tree tells the story of Samir and Muna, young neighbors who have disagreement over who has rights to olives from an old tree that grows on one side of a fence but drops olives onto the other side. In this poignant and uplifting story, the children show compassion and broadened understanding in the lovely conclusion. Younger readers will easily relate to the lessons in the story and will enjoy the sensitive and colorful portrayal of the characters and setting by illustrator Claire Ewart. This is the fourth Middle East Book Award or honorable mention for author Elsa Marston with previous awards in the fiction and non-fiction categories.
THE STORY OF HURRY
by Emma Williams, illustrated by Ibrahim Quraishi (Seven Stories Press, 2014).
The Story of Hurry presents the perspective of a funny young donkey set against the backdrop of the many challenges and difficulties faced by Gaza Strip residents, especially children. Based on a true story, a creative zookeeper adds joy to children’s lives by transforming a donkey into a “zebra”. Illustrator Ibrahim Quraishi’s compelling mix of photography, painting, and collage images could be used to engage students in discussion of the living conditions presented and consequences of the long-term Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Author Williams provides extensive background information that will be helpful for teachers and parents who share this thought-provoking book with younger readers.
2014 Award Winner
RAZIA’S RAY OF HOPE
by Elizabeth Suneby, illustrated by Suana Verelst (Citizen Kid, 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 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 named 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 Award Winner
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 were pleased to note 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 and suited for extension on many topics and subject areas.
2013 Honorable Mention
GOLDEN DOMES AND SILVER LANTERNS: A MUSLIM BOOK OF COLORS
by Hena Khan, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini (Chronicle Books, 2012).
Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns impressed reviewers with its 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 Award Winners
FOLKTALES FROM TURKEY: FROM AĞRI 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. Reviewers 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 & 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 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 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 Award Winner
by Jeannie Baker (Candlewick Press, 2010)
Without words but through creative binding and exquisitely detailed collages, Mirror provides parallel accounts of the lives of two families: one Moroccan and one Australian. Despite their differences, both families have similar routines and needs, therefore, the metaphor of a mirror. Reviewers were highly impressed with the book’s message, layout, and subtle teachings as well as the opportunities it presents for comparison, cultural analysis, and countering stereotypes.
2011 Honorable Mentions
THE SECRET MESSAGE
by Mina Javaherbin, illustrated by Bruce Whatley (Disney/Hyperion Books, 2010).
Based on a true story by Rumi, 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 comparison with 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 a clear explanation of Muslim prayers as well as aspects of Islamic practice. The story revolves around a loving relationship between a girl and her grandmother and is enhanced by beautiful illustrations, including calligraphy. Reviewers commented that the book will help readers learn about Islam in the daily rhythm of life, has a strong educational value, and is a good story with females as the main characters.
2010 Award Winner
HOW MANY DONKEYS? AN ARABIC COUNTING TALE
by Margaret Read MacDonald 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 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. A great introduction to Arabic numbers for younger readers, as well as the Joha/Goha/Hoca character known throughout the region.
2010 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, while the humorous illustrations and snappy text provide an entertaining read. Kids will look at history in a whole new way thanks to this unique approach.
2009 Award Winner
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, wouldn’t it? Along the way, we meet the villagers who inhabit his world, and get to know life in the Berber villages of Morocco. Peppered with Amazigh (Berber) phrases, this story provides an introduction to Berber culture augmented by an informative note from the authors and an accompanying glossary. The delightful illustrations round out this simple tale that landed at the top of our list this year.
2009 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 ran the Grand Mosque of Paris hid Jews from the Nazi forces occupying France, frequently sweeping the city looking for Jews to send to the concentration camps in Eastern Europe. In a world in which Muslims are often stereotyped as terrorist, this story instead focuses on the many humanitarian deeds Muslims have been done and continue to do in the world. This is a must read in any study of the Holocaust by fourth-, fifth-, or sixth-graders. The illustrations are beautifully done often using dark colors to emphasize the dire circumstances of people during those dark days.
2008 Award Winner
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 Honorable Mentions
FOUR FEET, TWO SANDALS
by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Doug Chayka (Eerdman’s 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 for students 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 come up with a plan to 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 important themes of charity and helping the less fortunate.
2007 Award Winner
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 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 Farsi. The book travels the length and breadth of the country, from Omar Khayyam’s famous four line poems to the seven countries that border Iran. This book makes 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 & 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. While telling the tried-and-tested story of the small and weak triumphing over the large and powerful, 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 Award Winner
LUGALBANDA, THE BOY WHO GOT CAUGHT UP IN A WAR
by Kathy Henderson, illustrated by Jane Ray (Candlewick Press, 2006).
This five thousand-year-old story from the land of ancient Sumer, now Iraq, focuses on the boy Lugalbanda who is assumed to have been the father of Gilgamesh. Lugalbanda accompanies his older brothers and father the king on a military campaign. When his father needs someone to travel alone through dangerous mountains to get assistance, Lugalbanda volunteers. His courage, honesty, and peace-seeking efforts bring honor to him and to his people. The story is based on Sumerian poems that were written in cuneiform on clay tablets that were found in the 19th Century but were not translated until the 1970s. Author Kathy Henderson became aware of the poems in 2003, immediately before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In preparation for creating the rich illustrations on each page, illustrator Jane Ray studied Sumerian artifacts in the British Museum. This book warrants multiple readings and includes themes that will evoke connections over place and time.
2006 Honorable Mention
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 Award Winner
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 Honorable Mentions
2004 Award Winner
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 Award Winner
by Diane Hoyt Goldsmith, photographs by Lawrence Migdale (Holiday House, 2002).
This photo-essay follows a fourth-grade Muslim boy living in New Jersey as he celebrates the holy month of Ramadan. Text and photographs work well together to convey, in a very personal way, the daily life and community of a Muslim-American family.
2001 Award Winner
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. Text, illustrations, and occasional maps are interwoven throughout for a very effective presentation.
2000 Award Winner
THE HOUSE OF WISDOM
by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland, (DK Publishing, Inc., 1999).
A picture book of highly original, exciting and illuminating illustrations by Mary Grandpre, 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 Honorable Mention
by Ted Lewin (New York: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books, 1998).
A gentle story with beautiful illustrations, telling of a young boy and his grandfather who carry on the tradition of storytelling in the market place of Fez, Morocco. A splendid book for showing modern Morocco to young people.