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

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  897 ratings  ·  137 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...more
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....more
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...more
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...more
Cheryl in CC NV
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...more
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...more
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...more
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
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.
Renee Burr
The Librarian of Basra is the true story of Alia Muhammad Baker, the librarian is Basra Iraq. She shares her love of books with the community until war comes and her collection is threatened. Even though the library is eventually burned down, the people hide her books in their homes until they can rebuild their library. I love this story because it is a child friendly way to talk about the war in Iraq, but I also love the pictures. The illustrator did a great job of using color to evoke mood. I...more
Utterly beautiful.
(NS)Jennifer Reiner
This is my non-print material.

Alia Muhammad Baker is the chief librarian of Basra's Central Library. She is determined to protect the library holdings during the war. The government refused to help Alia so she knew that she had to figure out something. Alia moved the books into a friend, Anis Muhammad's, restaurant nine days before the library burned to the ground. As the fighting continued, Alia moved 30,000 books to her and her friends homes to wait for peace and the building of a new library....more
Genre: non-fiction
Format: picture book
Grade level: elementary

Jeanette Winter’s The Librarian of Basra tells the story of Alia Muhammad Baker, a librarian from Basra, Iraq. During the U.S. led war the city of Basra was bombed which led to the destruction of the city including the library. Baker, without any help from the government, worked to save the books of the library. She hid them in her home, her friends’ homes, and in a nearby restaurant.

The author of the book also illustrated the book. Th...more
The Librarian of Basra describes the true story of Alia Muhammad Baker, an instrumental librarian in Basra’s Central Library. When the Iraq invasion reached Basra in 2003, Baker as well as other community members rescued the books before the library was burned to the ground. This picture books depicts Baker’s heroism as she moved the library’s book to a nearby restaurant and finally to her home. The author depicts the violence and corruption throughout Iraq at this time without being too scary....more
I listened and viewed this book online through Tumble Books on SPL's website. It is a somber, yet hopeful book about the librarian in war-torn Basra who takes it upon herself to save the library's books. This book would be an excellent way to discuss such a difficult subject as the Iraq war with children and how war affects every aspect of life. 1st through 3rd grades.

From SLJ:
"In telling this story, first reported in the New York Timeson July 27, 2003, by Shaila K. Dewan, Winter artfully achiev...more
Apr 06, 2008 Laura rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: anyone who loves books
A beautiful, inspiring picture book about the librarian who saved the Basra Central Library’s collection from wartime destruction. The author describes the context of war simply and realistically, and the illustrations are evocative without being overtly graphic. This powerful story of courage and dedication ends on a hopeful note.

Summary from SPL: In war-stricken Iraq where civilians--especially women--have little power, a librarian in Basra struggles to save her community's priceless collecti...more
Megan Piero
I truly loved this story. It is about a lady named Alia who has been a librarian for 14 years. Her library has always been a meeting place for people to come together and share their love for books. One day, her country goes to war. Her city is full of unrest and she fears what will happen to her precious books that hold thousands of years of history and culture inside of them. She becomes determined to take it upon herself and save her books no matter what. Secretly at night, she begins moving...more
This story was introduced to me today at a seminar about teaching reading and writing across the curriculum. It is the true story of a librarian in Basra who was afraid the war would destroy all the books in the library. When she couldn't get any help, she began taking the books home with her to keep them safe. She eventually got help from a restaruant owner next door and was able to save about 70% of the books from the library before it was burned down. It doesn't ever mention who is fighting i...more
Alia Muhammad Baker is the librarian of Basra, Iraq. After the Iraq War began, Alia was concerned that the library and it's precious books would be destroyed. So she and her friends secretly remove the books from the library before it is burnt to the ground. Now that the war is over, the library will be rebuilt. Until then, the books are safe, thanks to the librarian of Basra. This picture book is appropriate for ages 5-8, but could also be paired with the graphic novel Alia's Mission: Saving th...more
Mar 11, 2008 Tiffany rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: children and grown-ups
I read about this book awhile back and thought it looked interesting, but had forgotten about it. Then, today, I spent the afternoon in the Lawrenceville library, doing some writing. It's a smallish library, and the best place to plug in my computer happened to be in the children's center, so I pulled a big-person chair up to a little-person table and got down to business. But then I noticed that I was sitting near this very book, so I picked it up and read it. It's a children's book based on th...more
Yesenia Sepulveda
War, decision-making and passion is the main theme involving this story. Jeanette Winter takes us into the life of a librarian in Basra. She shows us how passion for reading can lead one to risk their life in the middle of a war. Young readers will learn to fight for what they believe in. They will be exposed to the difficulties of war and quick decision-making with possible risk. Children will learn what it's like to live in a place like Basra where there is not much freedom, like the one that...more
This is the story of a heroic woman who saves all the ancient library books in Basra when the War in Iraq first began in the early 2000's. This is based on a true story and shows how one woman with the help of her community is able to save thousands of years of information by hiding the books in her home and the surrounding community. This would be a great book to teach about heroes or during a social studies unit when teaching about the war. This is a good book for 2nd-upper middle school stude...more
This is a true story of one woman's dedication and determination to save the books in the library in Basra... Including many rare and invaluable texts..some religious and some secular in nature. How fortunate that she was dedicated enough (as were neighbors and other community members) to save these books.... Especially since there were so many treasures and one of a kind texts. I know many other Iraqi pieces of art and culture were destroyed. I found the quote on the first page so interesting a...more
cip/summary: The story of how Alia Muhammed Baker, chief librarian at Basra's Central Library was able to save 70% of the collection before the library burned in an attack during the invasion of Iraq.

The Jeannette Winter uses sparse language and rich illustrations to tell the true story of how the chief librarian at Basra's Central Library was able to save the majority of the collection from destruction with the help of her friends and neighbors. This topical story is sensitively handled and, th...more
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“In the Koran, the first thing God said to Muhammed was 'Read.” 20 likes
“Her library is a meeting place for all who love books. They discuss matters of the world and matters of the spirit.” 7 likes
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