The Librarian of Basra

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!  We came across a really interesting book about a heroic librarian. ( I actually think all librarians are pretty heroic!).

The book is called The Librarian of Basra, a True Story from Iraq by Jeanette Winter.

It is a non-fiction book published by Harcourt, Inc. in 2005.

I think that it would be suitable for elementary age kids.

The book tells the story of Alia Muhammad Baker, the librarian in Basra, Iraq. “Her library is a meeting place for all who love books. They discuss matters of the world and matters of the spirit.” Alia loves her books and loves her library. When war, with its bombs and fires, comes to her city, she worries about the books being destroyed. So secretly in the night she and her neighbors move all the thousands of books to a nearby restaurant. When the war moves on from her city, leaving the library in ruins, she moves all the books again — to her own house and the houses of friends. And there she and the books wait for the end of war and she dreams of a new library.

This is a sad, but uplifting story. The book is a picture book and does not provide a lot of detailed information about the war or Iraq, but the illustrations are quite lovely, bright and simple and filled with emotion.

“Part of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to a fund administrated by the American Library Association to help rebuild the book collection of Basra’s Central Library.”

That sounds like a good cause! And maybe a classroom or school might like to do a fundraiser for the library. Or even for their own local library!

You might want to read the original article from the NY Times that inspired Ms Winter to write this book. Or maybe an interview with Ms Winter herself! Jeanette Winter is an interesting lady and has written other books. You can read a nice article about her here.

This book could provide a good history lesson about Iraq and the war there. And about libraries in general. A history of libraries would be fascinating. Kids might like to do a play about the Librarian saving her books.

A study guide for this book and another book about the Basra Library called Alia’s Mission by Mark Alan Stamaty, can be found here.

I would sure not like to have to move all the books from our Somervell Co. Library!  Whew! What a task! I can’t even imagine how a few people could do something like that in a night!   You know, that might be a good math problem for big kids to figure out! How many books could you move in a night?!
I hope your libraries are all safe and sound. I hear that some bookstores in the northeast got flooded when Sandy came to visit. It’s a sad thing to lose books like that.

Go check out The Librarian of Basra and — Treasure your books! And if you want to check out some more great picture books you can visit Susanna Hill’s blog!

16 thoughts on “The Librarian of Basra

  1. Rhythm, thanks for this book recommendation. Sometimes we don’t think about the overall impact of wars and disasters like Hurricane Sandy and Katrina. Lives of course are the most precious to preserve, yet small things like books and libraries are so important too.

  2. How did she manage to move all her books overnight! I was wondering about the same thing while reading your post. What an amazing story of courage, love for books, patience, resilience and hope. Great share!

  3. Yes, all librarians are heroic! Digestable true stories in difficult circumstances are so important to share with kids. Great addition!

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