Middle East and South Asia Arabic Language and Culture Kit
Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq. Stamaty, Mark Alan. Knopf, 2004. ISBN: 9780375832178. In 2003, as bombs exploded over Basra, Alia attempted to preserve the collective history of Iraq. Alia was the chief librarian of the Central Library and as she watched her city prepare for war, she recalled her childhood history lessons and the stories of the destruction of the great library of Baghdad in 1258. Alia begged local officials to help but instead government officials commandeered her building. Secretly, Alia and her friends transported 30,000 volumes to safety before the library burned to the ground. Graphic novel.
Apricots Tomorrow and other Arabic Proverbs. Arnander, Primrose & Skipworth, Ashkhain. Lamb, Kathryn, Ill. Stacey International, 1997. ISBN: 9780905743578. “To understand a people, acquaint yourself with their proverbs” runs an Arab adage, and here is the book to do just that. Paralleling age-old Arabic sayings from the Gulf region with English equivalents, the proverbs highlight the uncanny similarity of inherited wisdom in both East and West. One hundred proverbs from all over the Arab World. Dual Language: Arabic/English.
Ayat Jamilah: Beautiful Signs. Conover, Sarah & Crane, Freda. Wahl, Valerie, Ill. Skinner House Books, 2010. ISBN: 9781558965690. This collection of stories not only draws from the core of Islamic spirituality and ethics, the Qur’an, and the traditions (hadiths), but also from the mystical verse, folk tales, and exemplary figures of the Islamic narrative. Beautiful Signs gathers traditional stories from the farthest reaches of the Muslim world and thorough explanatory notes, will be invaluable to anyone wishing to understand or teach geography, world history, or world religions.
Best Eid Ever. Mobin-Uddin, Asma. Jacobsen, Laura, Ill. Boyds Mills Press, 2007. ISBN: 9781590784310. It’s Eid, and Aneesa should be happy, but her parents are thousands of miles away in Mecca for the Hajj pilgrimage. To cheer her up, her grandmother gives her a gift of beautiful clothing from Pakistan, one dress for each of the three days of Eid. At the prayer hall, Aneesa meets two sisters who are not dressed in new clothes for the holiday. When she discovers that the girls are refugees; Aneesa can’t stop thinking about the girls and what Eid must be like for them. That’s when she comes up with a plan to help the girls have the best Eid holiday ever. This is the story of the true essence of Eil-ul-Adha in providing for the needy and to give away what’s most dear to a person.
Crescent Moon and Pointed Minarets: A Muslim Book of Shapes. Khan, Hena. Illus. Amini, Mehrdokht. Chronicle, 2018. ISBN: 9781452155418. This picturebook celebrates the shapes and Islamic traditions of the Muslim world from a crescent moon to a square garden to an octagonal fountain. Depicts Muslims around the world of many races and ethnicities.
Escape from Aleppo. Senzai. N. H. Simon & Schuster, 2018. 326 pp. ISBN: 9781481472173. Nadia is separated from her family as they flee their home in Aleppo, Syria, when the Arab Spring sparks a civil war. The novel is set in 2010 on Nadia’s twelfth birthday as anti-government protests erupt across the Middle East and countries are thrown into turmoil. The book sheds light on the complicated situation in Syria that led to an international refugee crisis and tells the story of one girl’s journey to safety.
Genius of Islam: How Muslims Made the Modern World. Barnard, Bryn. Knopf, 2011. ISBN: 9780375840722. The Muslim world has often been a bridge between East and West, but many of Islam’s crucial innovations are hidden within the folds of history. In this book, Bryn Barnard uses short, engaging text and full-color illustrations to bring Islam’s contributions to life.
Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors. Khan, Hena. Illus. Amini, Mehrdokht. Chronicle, 2015. ISBN: 9781452141213. This picturebook has colorful illustrations and informative text that brilliantly capture the worlds of Islam, celebrating its beauty and traditions for readers, using colors to organize the book. This book can inspire questions and observations about world religions and cultures.
King for a Day. Khan, Rukhsana. Illus. Kromer, Christian. Lee & Low, 2014. ISBN: 97781643790565. This picturebook explores the tradition of kite flying, a common practice in India and Pakistan, connected to the spring season and a festival called Basant. During this festival, rivals prepare to battle in the skies with their kites especially built for this occasion. Malik is looking forward to doing battle from his rooftop with Falcon, the special kite he has built, to become the best kite fighter, the king of Basant. In two fierce battles, Malik takes down the kites flown by the bully next door. This lively story introduces a centuries-old festival, the traditional sport of kite fighting, and a determined young boy who masters the sport while finding his own way to face and overcome life’s challenges.
Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq. Winter, Jeanette. HMH, 2005. ISBN: 9780152054458. Books are precious to Alia Muhammad Baker, the librarian of Basra. To save the library collection during war, Alia and friends move 30,000 books into their homes. In a war-stricken country where civilians – especially women – have little bower, this true story about a librarian’s struggle to save her community’s priceless collection of books is a reminder that a love of literature and respect for knowledge know no boundaries.
The Library Bus. Rahman Bahram. Illus. Grimard, Gabrielle. Pajama Press 2020. ISBN: 978-1772781014. This picturebook captures the life of Pari in Afghanistan, who helps her mother with the library bus that brings books to the children of Kabul and surrounding areas. The bus seats have been replaced by chairs and tables and shelves of books. Pari feels important as she hands out notebooks and pencils to children in villages and the refugee camp, including girls who are learning to write English from her mother since in the past girls were not allowed to read. The author grew up in Afghanistan during the years of civil war and the restrictive Taliban regime, writing this book about the struggles of women who, like his own sister, were forbidden to learn at that point in history.
Like the Moon Loves the Sky. Khan, Hena. Illus. Khan, Saffa. Chronicle, 2020. ISBN: 9781452180199. This book explores the traditional Islamic saying of ‘In Sha Allah.’ With vibrant illustrations and prose inspired by the Quran, this picturebook is a heartfelt and universal celebration of a parent’s absolute affection for a child.
Lion, King, and Coin. Nam, Jeong-hee. Sforza, Lucia, Ill. Erdmans Books for Young Readers, 2017. ISBN: 9780802854759. Laos enjoys his life in ancient Turkey. His father and grandfather are blacksmiths, famous for melting gold into beautiful objects. Laos helps by working in his grandfather’s market stall, bartering their gold for food and livestock. They need a way to represent the value of their goods, something durable and lightweight. The king comes to Laos’s family with the important task of creating something that will make the market accessible to everyone. A story about the invention of currency in ancient Turkey around 600 BCE.
Lugalbanda: The Boy Who got caught up in a War: An Epic Tale from Ancient Iraq. Henderson, Kathy. Ray, Jane, Ill. Candlewick, 2006. ISBN: 9780763627829. Lugalbanda woke with a jolt, seeing the terrible Anzu bird beating its wings in its nest high above. Long before the Greek and Roman myths, there came a story from the land we now call Iraq. Speaking across five thousand years, this tale includes an extraordinary journey, a magical bird, a battle that wouldn’t end, and of wisdom gained in the time of war. This epic adventure of a loyal, resourceful boy was etched on clay tablets in cuneiform, lost underground for thousands of years and rediscovered just 150 years ago.
Malala’s Magic Pencil. Yousafzai, Malala. Illus. Kerascoet. Little, Brown, 2017. ISBN: 780316319577. This picturebook is inspired by the childhood of Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. Growing up in Pakistan, Malala wanted a magic pencil with which she could erase every undesirable thing she could see. As she grew older, she saw a world that needed fixing and realized she could work hard every day to make her wishes come true, even if she never found a magic pencil.
Middle East. Steele, Philip. Kingfisher, 2006. ISBN: 97807353459843. This nonfiction book captures the richness and diversity of Middle Eastern culture and places the region in its global context. The Middle East dominates global news and politics with its many historical and sociological complexities. This book examines a wide range of themes, including religion, resources, history, politics, current affairs, and an examination country-by-country.
Mirror. Jeanne Baker. Candlewick, 2010. ISBN: 978-076364848. This wordless book uses beautiful collages to create two books in one that contrasts a day in the life of a child in urban Sydney, Australia with a child in a small Moroccan village. The reader is invited to compare, page by page, the activities and surroundings of the families in two settings and cultures. This book is an example of a problematic and stereotyped portrayal that unfairly compares a Western family with a North African family, contrasting urban with rural life to portray the Muslim family as living in poverty and as set back in time.
Muhammad. Demi. Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon and Schuster). ISBN: 9780689852640. This picturebook tells the stories of Muhammad’s life from a Muslim perspective, beginning with his birth in Mecca (A.D. 570) and his belief in the worship of one true god. In his fortieth year, Muhammad experienced a revelation from the angel Gabriel that he was the messenger of God. Over the next twenty-three years, he received many such revelations, which were written down by scribes to become the Quran and the Five Pillars of Islam. In keeping with Islamic artistic tradition, paintings do not portray the face or body of the Prophet; instead, Demi shows his silhouette in gold leaf.
Muslim Child: Understanding Islam Through Stories and Poems. Khan, Rukhsana. Gallinger, Patty, Ill. Whitman, 2002. ISBN: 9780807553077. Muslim Child is a collection of eight short stories along with several poems that offer a glimpse into the daily lives of Muslim children around the world. Every story begins with brief writings from the Quran, or sayings of the prophet Muhammad, and is designed to teach the basic tenets of the faith.
Muslim Girls Rise: Inspirational Champions of Our Time. Mir, Saira. Illus. Jaleel, Aaliya. Simon & Schuster, 2019. ISBN: 9781534418882. This nonfiction book focuses on the contributions of nineteen Muslim woman of the twenty-first century who have risen above trials, misgivings, and sometimes opposition to blaze trails in a wide range of arenas. From contribution to the fields of sports, government, science, entertainment, education, or activism, these women have left their mark in the fields of their choice. This book’s vibrantly illustrated text and informative short biographies challenges many common stereotypes especially that of silencing Muslim women.
My Beautiful Birds. Del Rizo, Suzanne. Pajama Press, 2017. ISBN: 9781772780109. Sami follows his family and neighbors as they walk through the hills to escape the bombs that have destroyed their homes in Syria. They reach a refugee camp and safety, but Sami worries about the pigeons he left behind. When a canary, a dove, and a rose finch fly into the camp, they provide Sami with the first step in a long healing process. A gentle yet moving story of refugees of the Syrian civil war that illuminates the ongoing crisis for children and the reality of refugee camps, revealing the hope of those who struggle to redefine home.
The Night Diary. Hiranandani, Veera. Dial, 2018. 264 pp. ISBN: 9780735228528. This historical fiction novel is set in 1947 when India was split into the two countries of Pakistan and India after India gained independence from British rule. The division was based on the two majority religions of Hinduism and Islam, and thousands were killed crossing borders to their new home countries. Written in the form of a diary that twelve-year-old Nisha addresses to her dead mother, Nisha is half Hindu and half Muslim and doesn’t know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. Her father decides it’s too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan and they become refugees trying to reach their new home in India in a lengthy, challenging, and hazardous journey. 2019 Newbery Honor book.
Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story. Khan, Hena. Illus. Paschkis, Julie. Chronicle, 2018. ISBN: 9781452168968. Yasmeen, a seven-year-old girl celebrates the Muslim holidays of Ramadan, “The Night of the Moon” before Eid known as ‘Chaand Raat’, and Eid. With illustrations that suggest inspiration and connections to Islamic art, this picturebook offers a peek into Muslim cultures and the ancient roots of its most cherished traditions.
19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East. Nye, Naomi Shihab. Greenwillow, 2005. ISBN: 9780060504045. A collection of sixty poems that talk about being Arab-American, about Jerusalem, the West bank, and Nye’s family. The poet encourages us to think and understand what it is to be Arab and to “leap like a gazelle” toward the horizon with the hope of peace spinning inside us.
One City Two Brothers. Smith, Chris. Fronty, Aurélia, Ill. Barefoot Books, 2007. ISBN: 9781846860423. When two brothers come to Solomon with a dispute about land inheritance, the king tells them the story of two other brothers who secretly transfer grain, each from his own stock to add to his brother’s storehouse in the night. In the morning, they are puzzled and dismayed to find their own stores undiminished and the next night try again. On the third night, each bearing more sacks of grain for the other, they meet and embrace. his spot becomes the site of the holy temple and the very city of Jerusalem. Based on a folktale told by both Jews and Arabs, this picture book illustrates what could be if people thought more about one another than about themselves.
Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education. Suneby, Elizabeth. Illus. Velerelst., Suana Kids Can, 2013. ISBN: 9781771385770. Razia is excited when her grandfather tells her about a school for girls being built in their Afghan village. Her grandfather remembers a time before the wars when educated women in Afghanistan became doctors, government workers and journalists and how this made families and the country stronger. Inspired by real-life Razia Jan’s experiences when she built the Zabuli Education Center outside of Kabul, Afghanistan, this fictionalized story personalizes the plight of many children around the world who are not being educated. Additional resources include an overview of children worldwide who do not attend school, the story of the real Razia Jan, a glossary of Dari words found in the text and activity suggestions.
Saffron Ice Cream. Kheiriyeh, Rashin. Scholastic, 2018. ISBN: 9781-338150520. Rashin is excited about her first visit to the beach in her family’s new home. On the way there, she remembers what beach trips were like in Iran, the beautiful Caspian Sea, the Persian music, and most of all, the saffron ice cream she shared with her best friend, Azadeh. But there are wonderful things in this new place as well. This picturebook has colorful folk-art illustrations.
Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad. Rumford, James. Roaring Brook Press, 2008. ISBN: 9781596432765. Like other children living in Baghdad, Ali loves soccer, music and dancing, but most of all, he loves the ancient art of calligraphy. When bombs begin to fall on his city, Ali turns to his pen, writing sweeping and gliding words to the silent music that drowns out the war all around him. A powerful story about a child’s everyday survival and hope in war torn Baghdad. CD included.
Sitti’s Secrets. Nye, Naomi Shihab. Carpenter, Nancy, Ill. Simon and Schuster, 1994. ISBN: 9780027684605. Mona, a young Arab American girl, journeys with her father to Palestine to meet her grandmother, Sitti. Without the ease of speaking the same language, Sitti and Mona learn to communicate with their own “invented” language. Sitti shows Mona her neighborhood and shares with her the pleasure of doing traditional household tasks. Mona soon discovers that, despite the differences in their lives, she and her grandmother share a warm and enduring bond.
Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Story. Ruurs, Margriet. Illus. Badr, Nizar Ali. Orca Books, 2016. ISBN: 9781459814905. Dual Language Arabic and English Edition. This unique picture book was inspired by the stone artwork of Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr. Using many of his already-created pieces as the illustrations, she wrote a story about the Syrian refugee crisis. Rama and her family are forced to flee their once-peaceful village to escape the ravages of the civil war raging ever closer to their home. With only what they can carry on their backs, Rama and her mother, father, grandfather and brother, Sami, set out to walk to freedom in Europe.
Time to Pray. Addasi, Maha. Gannon, Ned, Ill. Boyds Mills Press, 2010. ISBN: 9781590786116. On her first night visiting her grandmother, the muezzin at the nearby mosque calling the faithful to prayer wakens Yasmin. She watches from her bed as her grandmother prepares to pray. During her stay, Yasmin’s grandmother makes her prayer clothes, buys her a prayer rug, and teaches her the five prayers that Muslims perform over the course of a day. When it’s time for Yasmin to board a plane and return home, her grandmother gives her a present, a prayer clock in the shape of a mosque, with an alarm that sounds like a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer. Dual Language: English and Arabic
Traveling Man: The Journey of Ibn Battuta, 1325-1354. Rumford, James. HMH Books, 2004. ISBN: 9780618432332. “In the days when the earth was flat and Jerusalem was the center of the world, there was a boy named Ibn Battuta.” So begins this introduction to the journeys of this historically important but little-known, 14th-century Muslim figure. Born in Morocco and raised as a scholar, he began his 29 years of travel in 1325 when, at twenty-one, he went to Mecca as a pilgrim. He traveled through Africa, across the steppes of Asia, into India and China, and back to Morocco where “he told his story to the Moroccan court secretary Ibn Juzayy, who wrote it down in Arabic.”
The World is not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Zaha Hadid. Winters, Jeanette. Beach Lane, 2017. ISBN: 978-1481446693. This picturebook biography is on the life of Zaha Hadid, a renowned architect who triumphed over adversity. Zaha Hadid grew up in Baghdad, Iraq, and dreamed of designing her own cities. After studying architecture in London, she opened a studio and started designing buildings, facing many obstacles as a Muslim woman. When she died in 2016, Hadid had the distinction of being the only woman to receive both the Pritzker Prize and the Royal Gold Medal for her inventive sense of design.
Arabic Language Teaching Tools
Al Dudatu Al Shadidatu Al Gou/ Very Hungry Caterpillar. Carle, Eric. Karadi Tales, 2016. ISBN: 9788181901309. A language teaching tool. This is the traditional story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar that tells readers about the life of a caterpillar from egg to butterfly. This book introduces first words in Arabic in a story format that teaches the days of the week, numbers and counting, and names of some foods. Dual-Language; English and Arabic.
Hodhod’s Arabic Alphabet. Aboulnga, Sharif. CreateSpace, 2013. ISBN: 9781492838999. This fun colorful book teaches Arabic ABCs as well as the names of animals to children. In this book you will find: 58 pages of artwork, colorful pages with the letters of the Arabic alphabet, and 28 unique animals. This book is a companion to the iOS application Hood’s Arabic Alphabet “which is a Top 10 Arabic alphabet app. on iTunes.”
IQRA’ Arabic Reader Textbook Level 1. Abdallah, Fadel Ibrahim. IQRA’ International Education Foundation, 2011. ISBN: 9781563160271. This book is designed as a beginning program for teaching Arabic as a second language. Included are lessons dealing with basic conversational Arabic, reading, vocabulary, linguistic structures, spelling, and diction. Dual Language: English and Arabic. There are several books in this series.
My Arabic Words Book. Siddiqa Juma, Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, 2007. ISBN:9781879402331. This is an illustrated book featuring an Arabic word for each of the twenty-eight letters of the alphabet, presented in Arabic script along with the English translation. Delightful illustrations bring the vocabulary words to life, and there is a pronunciation guide to help with special characters.
Sugar comes from Arabic: A Beginner’s Guide to Arabic Letters and Words. Whitesides, Barbara. Interlink Publishing Group, 2009. ISBN: 9781566567572. This book presents clear directions for learning and writing Arabic letters, in large, bright red shapes with step-by-step instruction on how to draw each one. The Arabic letters are introduced in the order of the English alphabet, the script goes from right to left, and illustrations show how to connect the letters in a word. In addition, there are colorful illustrations and stories about products that have origins in the Arab World.
Up, Up, and Away with Arabic Numbers. Ameen, Saba Ghazi. Naggar, Amal El, Ill. IQRA’ International Educational Foundation, 2008. ISBN: 978156316027. The purpose of this book is to teach the names, sounds, and shapes of Arabic numerals using pictures and stencils. Numbers progress from 1-10 and then jump by tens to 100.