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The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq

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The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq

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Gr. 3-5. On the heels of Winter’s September Roses [BKL Ag 04]^B the author-illustrator isolates another true story of everyday heroism against a tragic backdrop. Books “are more precious than mountains of gold” to Basra librarian Alia Muhammad Baker. When “the beast of war” looms on the horizon, she and willing friends remove more than 30,000 volumes from the library and store them in their homes, preventing the collection’s destruction when a bomb hits the building. As appropriate for her audience, Winter’s bright, folk-art style does much to mute the horrific realities of war. The corresponding abstraction in the text, however, may give many readers pause. While an endnote explains that the “invasion of Iraq reached Basra on April 6, 2003,” the nature of the crisis rocking Baker’s homeland is left vague, and the U.S.‘s role in the depicted events is never mentioned. At the same time, certain images—among them, silhouetted figures in robes fleeing from ominous tanks and jets—carry a pointed commentary that will require sensitivity when presenting this to children of deployed parents. Still, the librarian’s quiet bravery serves as a point of entry into a freighted topic, and young readers will be glad to learn that a portion of the book’s sales will go toward helping rebuild Basra’s library. Jennifer Mattson
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