This post was written as part of the second annual Middle Eastern and North African Heritage Month series from Multicultural Kid Blogs! More information can be found at the end about the series.
One of my daughters will be entering a new school this year.
When that happens, I always make an excuse to wander into the new school library and see what they have as far as reading material about the culture and history of the Arab world.
There is so much confusion facts coming from the media, I want to be sure that my daughter and her peers read first hand from diverse voices directly in this region of the world.
So next week, I’ll be taking my list below of recommendations to the school librarian when I introduce myself. It’s always good to be proactive in your children’s education and environment.
I hope others may befit from this list. Feel free to visit the Crafty Arab Authors Pinterest page for adult Arab books recommendations. Book writes ups are from Amazon.
The Compassionate Warrior: Abd el-Kader of Algeria by Elsa Marston
A brilliant military strategist, superb horseman, statesman, philosopher, Muslim hero . . . Emir Abdel Kader (1808-1883) was an international celebrity in his own time, known for his generosity and kindness even towards enemies. Today he is recognized as one of the noblest leaders of the 19th century and a pioneer in interfaith dialogue. This fascinating biography of the heroic Arab who led the resistance to the French conquest of Algeria, endured betrayal and imprisonment, and in 1860, in Syria, saved thousands of innocent people from mob violence brings a vital message for our times.
Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Mara is a proud and beautiful slave girl who yearns for freedom. In order to gain it, she finds herself playing the dangerous role of double spy for two arch enemies – each of whom supports a contender for the throne of Egypt.
Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees by Deborah Ellis
The United States and its allies invaded Iraq seven years ago. Today the country is still at war, and no one can claim that true democracy has come. Four million Iraqis have been displaced, and about half of them, unable to flee the country, are now living in remote tent camps without access to schools, health care, or often even food and clean water. In Children of War, a companion title to Off to War: Voices of Soldiers’ Children, Deborah Ellis turns her attention to the most tragic victims of the Iraq war — Iraqi children. She interviews two dozen young people, mostly refugees living in Jordan, but also a few who are trying to build new lives in North America. Their frank and harrowing stories reveal inspiring resilience as the children try to survive the consequences of a war in which they play no part.
Queen Noor: American-Born Queen of Jordan
A biography profiling the life of Queen Noor, the American-born queen of Jordan. Includes source notes and timeline.
On August 2nd, Danah is ready to embark on the most fantastic vacation of her life–a visit to Disney World, when Iraq invades her country Kuwait. Overnight, her status changes from a spoiled wealthy girl to a homeless refugee. Stranded in New York with her uncle, Danah loses contact with her family in Kuwait. Would she ever see them again? Could she ever say, I’m sorry to her loving parents? Too anxious to wait for an international resolution to free her country, Danah stealthily returns to Kuwait and witnesses the horrors of war and destruction.
Faten’s happy life in her village comes to an abrupt end when her father arranges for her to work as a maid for a wealthy Beirut family with two spoiled daughters. What does a bright, ambitious 17-year-old do when she is suddenly deprived of her friends, family, education, and freedom? Enlisting the help of Marwan, the mysterious, wealthy young man who lives in the next apartment building, Faten finally figures out how to pursue her studies in secret. Even against the uncertain backdrop of the civil war, their romance develops, as Marwan and Faten conspire to exchange notes and meet at an idyllic seaside café. But in Lebanese society the differences in religion, class, and wealth are stacked against them, and their parents have very different ideas about what their futures should be. An engaging and lucidly written coming-of-age novel.
The Shadows of Ghadames
In the Libyan city of Ghadames, Malika watches her merchant father depart on one of his caravan expeditions. She too yearns to travel to distant cities, and longs to learn to read like her younger brother. But nearly 12 years old, and soon to be of marriagable age, Malika knows that—like all Muslim women—she must be content with a more secluded, more limited life. Then one night a stranger enters her home . . . someone who disrupts the traditional order of things—and who affects Malika in unexpected ways.
The Turtle of Oman
Praised by the Horn Book as “both quiet and exhilarating,” this novel by the acclaimed poet and National Book Award Finalist Naomi Shihab Nye follows Aref Al-Amri as he says goodbye to everything and everyone he loves in his hometown of Muscat, Oman, as his family prepares to move to Ann Arbor, Michigan. This book was awarded a 2015 Middle East Book Award, was named a Notable Book by the American Library Association, and includes extra material by the author.
Aref does not want to leave Oman. He does not want to leave his elementary school, his friends, or his beloved grandfather, Sidi. He does not want to live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where his parents will go to graduate school. His mother is desperate for him to pack his suitcase—but he refuses. Finally, she calls Sidi for help. But rather than pack, Aref and Sidi go on a series of adventures. They visit the camp of a thousand stars deep in the desert, they sleep on Sidi’s roof, they fish in the Gulf of Oman and dream about going to India, they travel to the nature reserve to watch the sea turtles. At each stop, Sidi finds a small stone that he later slips into Aref’s suitcase—mementos of home.
This accessible, exquisite novel shines with gentle humor and explores themes of moving, family, nature, and immigration. Naomi Shihab Nye has created what Kirkus called “a warm and humorous peek at the profound and mundane details of moving from one country to another—a perfect pick for kids on the move.” Features black-and-white spot art and decorations by Betsy Peterschmidt.
Code Name: Butterfly
With irony and poignant teenage idealism, Butterfly draws us into her world of adult hypocrisy, sibling rivalries, girlfriends’ power plays, unrequited love…not to mention the political tension of life under occupation. As she observes her fragile environment with all its conflicts, Butterfly is compelled to question everything around her. Is her father a collaborator for the occupiers? Will Nizar ever give her the sign she’s waiting for? How will her friendship with the activist Mays and the airhead Haya survive the unpredictable storms ahead? And why is ‘honour’ such a dangerous word, anyway?
The Green Bicycle
Spunky eleven-year-old Wadjda lives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with her parents. She desperately wants a bicycle so that she can race her friend Abdullah, even though it is considered improper for girls to ride bikes. Wadjda earns money for her dream bike by selling homemade bracelets and mixtapes of banned music to her classmates. But after she’s caught, she’s forced to turn over a new leaf (sort of), or risk expulsion from school. Still, Wadjda keeps scheming, and with the bicycle so closely in her sights, she will stop at nothing to get what she wants.
Set against the shifting social attitudes of the Middle East, The Green Bicycle explores gender roles, conformity, and the importance of family, all with wit and irresistible heart.
Through My Eyes
After being caught in Somalia’s horrific civil war, Zamzam escapes with her mother, sister, and brothers to America. But when she arrives, she learns that she has to deal with biases and stereotyping she isn’t prepared to handle. Zamzam dreams of making a difference in this world, and she wants to be seen as a person who has value.
Through My Eyes is a story of compassion, empathy, and the importance of eliminating stereotypes to promote social justice. Join eleven-year-old Zamzam as she navigates her way through her new country while embracing her Somali values.
A Hand Full of Stars
Amid the turmoil of modern Damascus, one teenage boy finds his political voice in a message of rebellion that echoes throughout Syria and as far away as Western Europe. Inspired by his dearest friend, old Uncle Salim, he begins a journal to record his thoughts and impressions of family, friends, life at school, and his growing feelings for his girlfriend, Nadia. Soon the hidden diary becomes more than just a way to remember his daily adventures; on its pages he explores his frustration with the government injustices he witnesses. His courage and ingenuity finally find an outlet when he and his friends begin a subversive underground newspaper. Warmed by a fine sense of humor, this novel is at once a moving love story and a passionate testimony to the difficult and committed actions being taken by young people around the world.
Benny and Omar
A comic novel in which hurling fanatic Benny is suddenly landed in Tunisia, where life becomes hectic when he meets Omar. The two boys beat the language problem in their own unique way.
The Arab World Thought of It: Inventions, Innovations, and Amazing Facts
Ink-filled pens, mattresses, and bars of soap—these are only some of the inventions and innovations that have been passed down through the millennia from the peoples of Arab lands. Readers may be surprised to learn that they have also given us • the scalpel • planetariums • three-course meals As in the other titles in this series, The Arab World Thought of It uses stunning photos and well-researched information to provide an overview of contributions made in the fields of medicine, architecture, food, and education. Also included is a look at accomplishments in the areas of engineering, transportation, and oil production. Complete with maps, timeline, index, and a list of further reading, this book is an excellent starting point for the exploration of a thriving culture.
Welcome to the second annual Middle Eastern and North African Heritage Month series from Multicultural Kid Blogs! Follow along all month long for great resources on teaching children about the heritage of this region, and link up your own posts below. You can also find even more resources on our North Africa and the Middle East Pinterest board:
Crafty Moms Share
All Done Monkey
A Crafty Arab
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