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14 inspiring books for kids set in the Middle East

Updated: 3 days ago


I thought I would share some inspiring, illustrated children's books set in the Middle East with you to continue our series of Kids' books per world region. Maybe the list will motivate you to learn more about the Middle East with your kiddos or even inspire you to add one of the featured countries to your list of future travel destinations. As travel is still limited due to the current pandemic, it is always refreshing to get lost in the magic of books and continue to dream and explore our beautiful planet. Happy reading and discovery!

1. Persepolis: A memoir of a young girl in Iran

Persepolis is a black and white graphic autobiography by Marjane Satrapi. The Iranian -born French author Satrapi was born in Iran on November 22, 1969. This best-selling book initially published in French has been translated to many other languages, including English, Swedish, and Spanish, just to name a few. The book is in 2 volumes and tells the story of her childhood during the Islamic revolution until she left to study in Austria to escape the war. Part 2 of the book covers her adulthood. It is an eye-opening, heartbreaking book. There is also an adaptation of the book on film that you can get here.

2. The Librarian of Basra: A true story from Iraq



This illustrated book is the inspiring story of Alia Muhammad Baker, Chief librarian at the Al Basrah Central Library in Basra, Iraq, back in 2003. The book recounts how she rescued 70% of the library’s books during the war in Iraq before it got completely burned out. We love it because it is a touching story that celebrates the joy of reading books and showcases how one person can make a difference despite all odds.

3. Nasreen’s secret school: A true story from Afghanistan


It is an inspiring picture book about a little girl Nasreen who stopped talking after her parents were taken away from her in Herat, Afghanistan, during the 1996-2001 reign of the Taliban.

The book is told from her grandmother's point of view as they deal with Nasreen's parents absence and Nasreen attending a secret school for girls. we love this book because it is about the courage of a young girl's through difficult times and the impact of war on our society.

4. Snow in Jerusalem


Beautiful illustrations are set in the old city of Jerusalem. It is the story of 2 boys, one Palestinian and the other Israeli, residing in different quarters. One lives in the Muslim quarter and the other in the Jewish quarter and how they must overcome their differences and distrust to help the stray cat they both care for. We love it because it is a story of friendship and peace.

5. The turtle of Oman



It is a bittersweet story about a little boy Aref’s reluctance to leave his home in Muscat, Oman, for Michigan for three years while his parents attend graduate school. The book is heartwarming and portrays a beautiful relationship between Aref and his grandfather Sidi. He goes on a series of adventures before his trip with his grandfather, who prompts him to see his move to a new country in a more positive light as he listens to his grandson fears and worries.

6. Oranges in No Man’s Land


This short story book follows a ten-year-old Ayesha during the civil war in Beirut, Lebanon.

This is the story of a little girl who does not know why her country is at war and who ventures through a war zone in Beirut to get medicine for her sick grandmother. The book covers both the young and adult Ayesha’s perspective. It shows her courage, determination, and grit in the face of challenging adversities.

7. Sitti’s Secrets


It is a touching story of Mona, a Palestinian girl living in America who goes to visit her Sitti( grandmother) in Palestine. They don’t speak the same language, and yet they invent their own language to communicate and form a powerful bond. We love this book because it speaks to many children who have distant relatives in faraway lands and how it shows that two family members, despite being continents apart, can come together and embrace traditions, family, and culture.

8. The Princess and the foal


This is a delightful book based on Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Jordan and her beloved foal Bint Al-Reeh, nicknamed Bree.

After Queen Alia dies in a tragic accident, her family has a tough time moving on, and King Hussein, her dad, gives her an orphan foal to raise. The books cover Princess Haya's love for horses and how, despite her privileged life as royalty, she works hard to enter and win many equestrian competitions and even become an Olympic Equestrienne. A beautiful book that showcases Princess Haya's determination and tenacity.

9. Jamal’s Journey


A cute illustrated book about a camel’s journey through the desert.

It covers how he gets lost in the desert and finds his way back to his family with the help of a falcon—a great story about perseverance and not giving up.

10. Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad


It is a story of a boy Ali who lives in Baghdad, and his love for calligraphy and how he practices daily. Calligraphy is his escape and silent music that helps him find comfort and peace ( Salam in Arabic) during wartime. A beautiful book providing a good understanding to kids on different writing styles and insight into what it feels like to live in a war zone.

11. Joha Makes a Wish: A Middle Eastern Tale


Inspired by a Yemen fairy tale ("The Answered Prayer")

this rich illustration book makes you guess what will happen next.

Joha tales are known throughout the middle east A.K.A Nasreddin Hoja.

The book is about a protagonist Joha or a wise fool who discovers a magical stick on his trip to Baghdad'.Excited, he started asking for all sorts of things but got the total opposite of everything he asked for. There are many important messages throughout this picture book, one of them being "be careful or what you wish for" and to appreciate what you already have.

12. My Sister Shahrazad: Tales from the Arabian Nights



Ten stories from the Arabian Nights ancient classic beautifully illustrated.

A betrayed king who no longer trusts any woman is told a story every night by his new bride Shahrazad to avoid execution as the brides before her.

13. One city Two Brothers




This book tells the story of how the city of Jerusalem was established and the traditions of the various people who live there. The story begins with King Solomon explaining to two brothers how Jerusalem came to be, because of a land dispute. It goes on showing the generosity and willingness of both brothers to care for another and create prosperity and peace.

14. The Sky of Afghanistan.



A beautifully illustrated book about a little girl in Afghanistan who yearns for a life where her country is at peace and where she and her friend can have the chance to achieve their dreams instead of being in survival mode at all times. "I will fly the bright kite of peace because it is possible, I am sure of it."We love this book because it has powerful messages that speak to both kids and adults.

If you know of any other interesting illustrated books for kids set in the Middle East, please share with us, we would love to know about it too. And don’t forget to comment below and share your favorite reads! For more posts like this don’t forget to subscribe and share the Traveler Butterfly Love!







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