The Librarian of Basra: A True Story From Iraq, by Jeanette Winter ISBN 0152054456
Five out of five stars
Although it is never explicitly stated, it is clear that the war being referred to is the American invasion of Iraq, also known as the Second Gulf War. Given the location of Basra in the southern tip of the country, it was one of the first cities to experience the entry of coalition ground forces.
The heroine of this story is Alia Muhammad Baker, a librarian in the city of Basra. It is a special library the collection contains works in many languages and some of the item are very old. One in particular is a biography of Muhammad that is seven hundred years old.
The book chronicles Alia’s successful tactics in saving the precious library holdings from being destroyed in the war, she enlists the help of other Iraqis that understand the value of books and the learning they provide. Even though the library is destroyed, the holdings are saved.
This book for children would be an excellent primer on Iraq and the role of the Arabic countries in keeping the ancient European intellectual flames alive during the time when books and learning largely vanished from Europe. Given some of the political forces now active in western countries, a reminder of the intellectual traditions of the Arabs would be a positive action.