An absolutely lovely book that naturally friends have been urging me to read for quite a while, and it didn’t disappoint. The story is about the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and how the chief librarian of Basra’s Central Library, Alia Muhammad Baker, “managed to save 70% of the library’s collection before the library was burned to the ground nine days later” (A note from the Author). The large hardback brightly illustrated pictures show children the seriousness of war without frightening them. The text also maintains this delicate balance as it conveys Alia Muhammad Baker’s fear and urgency in trying to save the books without overwhelming the reader. The AR level is 3.2 and I think younger students can appreciate the importance of libraries and knowledge and preserving it. While at the same time, older students can appreciate what is destroyed, possibly inadvertently in a war, and how individuals can make a difference. The book scratches the surface and I’ve read some harsh critiques of the book claiming that their are glaring omissions as to why the library was destroyed, who destroyed it, why the soldiers look as they do etc. But honestly I choose to take it at face value and to appreciate that this book exists, that the characters and community in the book care enough to save nearly 30,000 books and that it is presented in a way accessible to children.
How the Author acquired and retold the story: http://www.harcourtbooks.com/authorinterviews/bookinterview_Winter.asp
Fourth grade lesson plan: http://cmes.arizona.edu/sites/cmes.arizona.edu/files/The%20Librarian%20of%20Basra.pdf