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The Librarian of Basra

A True Story from Iraq

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


"In the Koran, the first thing God said to Muhammad was 'Read.'"*
--Alia Muhammad Baker

Alia Muhammad Baker is a librarian in Basra, Iraq. For fourteen years, her library has been a meeting place for those who love books. Until now. Now war has come, and Alia fears that the library--along with the thirty thousand books within it--will be destroyed forever.

In a war-stricken country where civilians--especially women--have little power, this true story about a librarian's struggle to save her community's priceless collection of books reminds us all how, throughout the world, the love of literature and the respect for knowledge know no boundaries. Illustrated by Jeanette Winter in bright acrylic and ink.

Includes an author's note.
*From the New York Times, July 27, 2003

From Publishers Weekly

Dec 20, 2004 – Relaying the same story told in Alia's Mission (reviewed below), Winter deftly pares down for a picture-book audience the events surrounding Alia Muhammad Baker's courageous book rescue mission in Basra, Iraq, in spring 2003 (see Children's Books, Dec. 13). She portrays the Basra library as a place where the community comes together not only to read books but to "discuss matters of the world and matters of the spirit." In a typically lyrical passage, the author notes, "Alia worries that the fires of war will destroy the books, which are more precious to her than mountains of gold." As spare yet penetrating as the narrative, Winter's boldly hued, acrylic and pen illustrations depict the frantic book salvaging effort against a bright orange and burnt sienna backdrop of bomb- and gunfire-lit skies and the subsequent, heartbreaking library fire. A clever cross-section image of Alia's house shows the library volumes (which, readers learn in a concluding note, amounted to an astounding 70 percent of the collection) piled on every available surface. Graphically and textually shifting tone from the real to the idyllic, subsequent pages reveal Baker in a serene, dove-filled setting, where she waits for the war to end and dreams of peace and a new library. Winter, ever aware of her audience, mentions Alia's stroke only in the endnote, keeping her story to specifics that youngest readers can appreciate. All ages. FYI: A portion of the proceeds from the book's sales will be donated to a fund administered by the ALA to help rebuild the collection of Basra's Central Library.


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The Librarian of Basra
View in iTunes
  • $9.99
  • Level: Grades P-3
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biography
  • Published: Jan 01, 2005
  • Publisher: HMH Books
  • Seller: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
  • Print Length: 32 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 3 or later and iOS 4.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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