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14 inspiring books for kids set in the Middle East

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

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