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The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq
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The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  1,153 ratings  ·  174 reviews
"In the Koran, the first thing God said to Muhammad was 'Read.'"*
--Alia Muhammad Baker

Alia Muhammad Baker is a librarian in Basra, Iraq. For fourteen years, her library has been a meeting place for those who love books. Until now. Now war has come, and Alia fears that the library--along with the thirty thousand books within it--will be destroyed forever.

In a war-stricken c
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published January 1st 2005 by HMH Books for Young Readers
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Mar 08, 2012 Gundula rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: older children interested in the Iraq War, older children interested in brave women
According to Jeannette Winter's author's note, Alia Muhammad Baker (who was the chief librarian of Basra, Iraq) actually managed to save 70% of the Library of Basra's collection of books before the library burned in April 2003. Not only is it amazing that this brave woman, this librarian, this book lover par excellence, managed to save the majority of books entrusted to her care, but that she and her friends were able to accomplish this heroic deed in defiance of opposition (Alia Muhammad Baker ...more
The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq : I really enjoyed this book. It is important for readers to think about how people in other countries are impacted by events, such as war, from other perspectives. Many children know of the war in Iraq but from the American perspective. I am appreciative of Jeanette Winter for sharing Alia Muhammad Baker’s story and letting us see how the war affected the library and the residents of Basra, Iraq. I also appreciated that Winter noted that the Basra ...more
I'm quite torn over my feelings about this picture book which tells the true story of Alia Muhammad Baker, a librarian in Basra, Iraq, and how she personally endeavors to save the precious books in her library when war reaches Basra. On the one hand, it is a deeply touching story about how one person can make a difference in his/her community, even against all odds, and even inspire others to help. In this case, it is even more poignant in that Alia wants save books--treasure troves of her cultu ...more
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
A true librarian! I probably would have done the same thing were I in her shoes. The thought of destroying books-- unthinkable!
Lisa Vegan
Mar 09, 2012 Lisa Vegan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: discussions about war, collaboration, bravery, friendship, books, libraries
Well, I am impressed by the true story and by the Librarian of Basra. I’m not as big a fan of this book as are most Goodreads’ members. (I took a look at the ratings.)

One thing about which I’m perplexed is if the saving of the books happened in exactly this way, their survival was a matter of chance. Maybe the restaurant and not the library could have been bombed?

So, I didn’t really like the spare text. I didn’t like that the story (sans beginning quote and author’s note) seems almost generic.
Dec 31, 2009 Dolly rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is a sad, but heartwarming tale about how war tears apart the foundations of society. One librarian strives to protect her precious books, books that are hundreds of years old and cultural relics. It's sad that the library is burned to the ground during the conflict, but inspiring that Alia was so dedicated to preserving her piece of Iraqi culture and language. Our girls enjoyed watching the story on the Tumblebooks website. (

This story was selected as one of the books for t
Illlustrated with bright, bold acrylic and pen illustrations, _The Librarian of Basra_ tells a story of the horrors of war in a balanced way, not too frightening for young children. (There is no mention that it is U.S. planes that bomb the city, although an American soldier is pictured at the door in one illustration.) Alia gets no help from the Governor of Basra in trying to preserve the 30000 books in the library when war is imminent, so she takes it upon herself to move them with the help of ...more
Apr 21, 2009 Tara rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone.
I'd like to develop some sort of "librarian appreciation" unit that injects a little world view, and came across this book as a recommendation in the NYSUT newsletter.

Although this is a child's book, (primarily recommended for 3rd - 5th grade), I would like to try using this as a read aloud to kick off the unit in conjunction with the New York Times article ...

I think it might work best with middle school students, but I'd use it in high school as well, as
Important, yes. Which might actually discourage people like me who are used to choosing books for children being light, loving, funny.... But this works even for us because of bright colors, collage-like illustrations, and a very strong simple message of courage and hope. Some folks have said it's too simplistic, leaving out details. I say that the details, if included, would detract from the universally powerful theme.
The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq by Jeanette Winter, based on a New York Times article of July 27, 2003, tells the story of Alia Muhammad Baker, head librarian of Basra, Iraq who helped save 70% of the library's collections before the library burned during the Iraq War. An author's note gives backgound at the end of the book. This was a March 2012 selection for the library topic for the Picture Book Club at Goodreads.

Winter's colorful, bold illustrations were done in acrylic and pe
Worried about the chance that her library would be destroyed by the fast approaching war, Alia Muhammad Baker begins taking the books home to hide them. The crisis becomes acute when anti-aircraft guns are installed on the roof of the library and the military flees soon after. Alia then convinces friends and neighbours to help her in sheltering the books. Her worst fears are realized when the library is hit by a bomb and burns to the ground. But through her efforts 70% of the books were saved. S ...more
Published: 2005, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Age: 4-8

This is the story of Alia Muhammed Baker, the chief librarian of Basra, Iraq, who saved 30,000 books (70% of the books) from Basra's library before it burned during the U.S. invasion of Iraq on April 6, 2003. She had been a librarian for 14 years and when the war came she worried that the library would be destroyed forever. The governor will not save the books so Baker takes matters into her own hands to save the books from burning and ends up h
Lisa Campbell
Lisa Campbell
Picture book
This charming picture book tells the story of one woman’s heroic effort to save the literary treasures of Basra. Alia Muhammad Baker saw war approaching her city. As the librarian, she knew the value of saving the library. After being denied assistance by the government to save the contents of the library, she begins to empty the library one carload at a time. She moves the books to her home, filling every nook and cranny with ancient books. When was finally arrives and
The culture of a nation is contained in its books. A library, therefore, becomes the Fort Knox of one's culture. In 2003 in Basra, Iraq, a librarian feared that bombings would destroy the precious repository resting within library walls. The "government" had other things to worry about so she took the matter into her own hands and cleared the library of over 70% of its contents, storing nearly 30,000 volumes in her home and the homes of her friends. The library structure did, in fact, burn to th ...more
Ευθυμία Δεσποτάκη
Η πραγματική ιστορία της βιβλιοθηκάριου της Βασόρας, που κατάφερε να σώσει το 70% των βιβλίων του ιδρύματος, εν μέσω του πολέμου. Γλυκύτατο και τρυφερό κι ωστόσο πικρότερο κι από τον ίδιο τον πόλεμο.
Jessica Valdez

Living history is not always sweet, but Winter, who has made beauty from contemporary horror in September Roses (p. 815) does it anew. Alia Muhammad Baker was the chief librarian of the Central Library in Basra, Iraq, a meeting place for many and quite near one of Basra’s best restaurants. When war comes to Basra, Alia saves the books in the only way she can see: She takes thousands of them to her own home, to the homes of friends, and to the restaurant next door. Alia saved 70 perc
Madison Hays
The Librarian of Basra written by Jeanette Winter is about a librarian named Alia in Iraq. For a long time, everyone has come to her library to read and gain knowledge. For most, it is a safe and relaxing environment. However, the war is coming. Alia is terrified that her books will be destroyed forever and she will stop at nothing to protect her library.

The illustrations in this story are bright, regardless of the seriousness of the topic. Jeanette Winter used acrylic paint to cover the pages.
Clara Bowman-Jahn
Why I love it: I found this book among the banned books in a shelf with a yellow band around it saying it was banned. When I asked why, the librarian did not know but told me a committee had decided it so. I imagine it was because if was about Iraq, a country we were at war with. And that America might have been the reason the library was burned down. And then I found this on banned books,

However the bravery of this librarian to save her loved books is one of courage and showed me how truly luc
Hailey Phay
Worried about the chance that her library would be destroyed by the fast approaching war, Alia Muhammad Baker begins taking the books home to hide them after the governor wouldn’t help her keep the books safe . The crisis becomes acute when guns are installed on the roof of the library and the military flees soon after. Alia then convinces friends and neighbors to help her in sheltering the books. Her worst fears are realized when the library is hit by a bomb and burns to the ground. But through ...more
Brenda  Roman
The Librarian of Basra was based on a true story from Iraq Jeanette Winter wrote. Alia Muhammad-Bakers library was a meeting place everyone who loved reading books. And now all they seemed to talk about was war, she worries her books will get destroy. Rumors became reality Basra was attacked. When everyone abandoned the library the inly person left inside was Alia trying to save her books seeking for help by shouting to her neighbors, brothers and friends. Thirty thousand books are saved in to ...more
Abigail Surmay
This historical fiction children's book takes a very serious topic and is on the "newer" side of history, if you will, and makes into something that doesn't even seem scary for an adult. The topic is the War happening in Iraq, and this is also a true story.

We start out meeting this old librarian who lives in Basra, Iraq. Her name is Alia Muhammad Baker. We learn that Alia looks at her books like treasure gold, they mean so much to her. Then we start hearing rumors and we see Alia start to panic
Marinna Bressel
In April 2003, the invasion of Iraq reaches Basra, a port city. Alia Muhammad Baker, the chief librarian of Basra's Central Library is worried the books will be destroyed. When she requests permission to move the books to a place where they will be safe, the governor denies her request. Frantic, Alia does want she can to save the books. Alia, with the help of her friend who owns the restaurant next to them, grabs all the books they can and trows them over a 7 foot wall and hides them in the rest ...more
Alexis Adelman
This book was a very heart wrenching, yet warming book. It is about a lady, Alia, who is a librarian in Basra, she lives and breathes books. The only problem is, the war is coming to her town and all the books are going to be destroyed by the war. Alia takes it into her own hands to save the books after the mayor said he wouldn't help. She moves all the books over a wall to her friends restaurant. In the end the books are saved, but the library was burned down. She moved the books from her frien ...more
Hayley DeRoche
While the story of Alia Muhammad Baker (the chief librarian of Basra's Central Library) is a hopeful one for adults, this is not a story written with children in mind. Page after page is filled with gunfire and war. Two pages read thusly: "The whispers of war grow louder. Government officials are moved into the library. Soldiers with guns wait on the roof. Alia waits -- and fears the worst. Then...rumors become reality."

Adults can read this with the scary pictures of bomber planes and not be sca
Deena Lernor
This is the story of Alia the Librarian and her fight to save her books. Alia Mohammed the Librarian of Basra loves the library and her books. People come there to talk and meet one another. Soon their conversations became about the war, and Alia starts to worry about her library. She goes to talk to Governor about moving the books out of the library to save them. She starts moving books out the library to her house but eventually she needs more help. She goes to great lengths to save her librar ...more
Man, I hate writing reviews for books I don't have in front of me, but the book was due at the library and I couldn't renew it. So, here we go!

First off, I need to confess my bias ... I'm the kid of Iraqi immigrants so I might have a warmer, fuzzier case of the warm fuzzies for this.

Anyway, this is the tale of a librarian who, knowing war was coming, was determined to save the books in her library. She had no official help (i.e., from local government), so she went ahead and did what she could t
Kristin J.
Based on a true story, The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq introduces readers to a librarian, Alia Muhammad Baker, whose love for reading and books is limitless. The imagery is simple, yet effective and thought provoking. The text vividly paints a picture, as readers becomes immersed in the life of Alia. When war reaches her city, it is up to Alia to protect all 30,000 books from perishing. This story delves into themes of friendship and love as Alia calls upon others to save the thin ...more
Paige Cook
The Librarian of Basra: A true story from Iraq is about a lady trying to save the books from getting destroyed during war. She keeps moving the books to keep them safe. One day the library burns down. Does Alia get all the books to safety? The illustrations throughout the book had many colors and were not extremely detailed. The words were under the illustrations and the pictures were in boxes covering the top half of the page. Although the book is on the topic of war, it doesn’t going into the ...more
This is a biography about a librarian form Basra. It describes loss and war in an understadable way for children. It is good for ESOL students because it unites all people through the value of learning.
Reddick Library
Spoiler at the end.
Some educators think that this book's content of war is not appropriate for children as young as third grade.
In the beginning the local people describe their worry about the coming war in order to show the severity of having to save the books. I have known 3rd graders that would focus on that and worry about it and others that wouldn't even give it a second thought. It would be easier for a parent to decide when a child would be ready for this book than a school teacher with
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“In the Koran, the first thing God said to Muhammed was 'Read.” 22 likes
“Her library is a meeting place for all who love books. They discuss matters of the world and matters of the spirit.” 8 likes
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