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The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  2,520 ratings  ·  395 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
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published January 1st 2005 by HMH Books for Young Readers
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4.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,520 ratings  ·  395 reviews

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Sura  ✿
هي قصة السيدة علياء أمينة مكتبة البصرة التي رأت ان الكتب لا تقل اهمية عن حياة البشر .
وانقذت ما يقارب الثلاثين الف كتاباً من التلف , ضمنها كتب تعود الى 700 سنة .
لم تبالي لأهمال المسؤولين وحافظت على كنزها وكنز اجدادها وتراثهم .
بطلة عراقيه يجب أن لا ينُنسى اسمها و قصة يجب أن تروى للصغار ليكبروا على حب الكتب وتقدير قيمتها النفيسة .

Mar 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: older children interested in the Iraq War, older children interested in brave women
According to Jeannette Winter's excellent and informative author's note, Alia Muhammad Baker (who was the chief librarian of Basra, Iraq, and indeed even that fact is remarkable, as it shows that while Saddam Hussein might have been in many ways a vile dictator, in his Iraq, women were obviously often employed in important and leadership potential careers) 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 b ...more
Mariah Roze
Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fantastic book that I read with my students! So educational and explains what war can do to a country and how important books are.
A love story about books. The opening quote "In the Koran, the first thing God said to Muhammad was 'Read'." This is said by Alia Muhammad Baker, the librarian of Basra. During the war of Iraq, she saved 30,000 books from burning. This is a short and succinct story. She was brave and she obviously loved the word. I had never heard this story and it's powerful. I would think any book-o-phile would appreciate someone saving a library during war. That's a big thought; what books would you decided t ...more
Jon(athan) Nakapalau
Alia Muhammad Baker is one of the unsung heroes of the war in Iraq. Her dedication to saving books for future generations is a true silver lining to this oppressive cloud of war.
Raya راية
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Only Alia is left to protect the books."

قصة سيدة عظيمة من العراق العظيم. أحبّت الكتب أكثر من أي شيء في العالم. وجازفت كثيراً من أجل إنقاذ هذه الكتب النادرة من وحوش الحرب.
سيدة عظيمة ومُلهمة تُعلّمك كيف يكون الانتماء الحقيقي للوطن، وتستحق أن تُعرف على نطاق واسع. ومن الرائع أن يتربّى أطفالنا على كهذا قصص.
كل الحب والاحترام والإجلال والإكبار للسيدة عالية محمد بكر ❤
قصة مؤثرة.
لا تُنسى.
Stephanie Anze
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
"In the Koran, the first thing God said to Muhammad was 'Read' " - Alia Muhammad Baker


Alia was the chief librarian at the Al Basrah Central Library in Basra, Iraq. A meeting place for discussions and connections, Alia loved her job. When war loomed and grew more imminent, Alia wanted to move the books to a safer location. When denied help by government officials, she took matters into her own hands.

I just love books about books and I particularly love this story for the sheer courage and streng
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pdf

قصة للأطفال كتبتها البريطانية جانيت وينتر باللغة الانجليزية عن أمينة مكتبة البصرة أثناء الحرب في العراق وكيف أنها أنقذت ثلاثين ألفًا من الكتب الجديدة والقديمة بعد أن نقلتها دون موافقة من الحكومة إلى منزلها ومنازل أصدقائها قبل أن تلتهم النيران المكتبة بتسعة أيام
هذه قصة حقيقية بطلتها امرأة عراقية تدعى علياء محمد

الجميل في الأمر غير موضوع القصة أن الكاتبة البريطانية استهلت هذه القصة بالتالي

In the Koran, the first thing God said to Muhammad was "Read".

شيء جميل جدًا أن يقرأ أطفال الغرب مثل هذه القصة ا
Maryam Adel
Apr 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
هي تنتظر الحرب لتنتهي
تنتظر وتحلم بالسلام
وتحلم بمكتبة جديدة
Randie D. Camp, M.S.
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
Mohamedridha Alaskari محمد رضا العسكري
A true story of Mrs. Alyaa the manager of Basra Library whom saved over than 3000 priceless books during the US invasion in Iraq.

I encourage everyone to read it. Very interesting true story! Feel proud of this Iraqi Woman.

The story is available pdf using this link:
Mar 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
أمينة مكتبة البصرة
جانيــــت ونتـــــر

ذات يوم العام الفائت كنت أقرأ مقالا عن الكتب ومن موضوع إلى موضوع عثرت على مقالة تشيد بقصة جانيت ونتر "أمينة مكتبة البصرة - قصة حقيقية من العراق" وقتها ظننت أن هذه القصة عبارة عن رواية تروي فيه جانيت تفاصيل نجاح أمينة المكتبة علياء في الحفاظ على كتب المكتبة العامة التي تعمل بها

اليوم فقط فوجئت بأن القصة عبارة عن قصة قصيرة للأطفال وبها رسوم توضيحية .. لكنني لم أحزن لفقدي متعة التلذذ في تفاصيل امرأة تعيش بين الكتب وكل ما يهمها في الحياة هو الحفاظ على هذه الكتب من
Nadin Adel
Apr 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A real worthy book aimed for kids to teach them part of what happened in Iraq through a simple illustrated story and to raise the awareness of the importance of learning, books and reading.

I just bought this book in ebook format today and completed it. I was prompted to read The Librarian of Basra because of the recommendation of it by one of my Goodreads friends who is Iraqi and the controversy this innocent book has caused in this country.

I am always skeptical when a Westerner, especially American, writes about a non-Western country or culture because many of these authors have a bad track record of making fantastically false presentations and setting up propaganda to make the
Nov 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
An amazing true story of an amazingly brave librarian!
Thanks for the rec Ridha!
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!
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
S.Baqer Al-Meshqab
Nov 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Well, I was not expected the booklet to be that short. It is directed for children, I suppose, so that's why. The picture book shows moderate artwork, and the story is OK for kids. I think it would give them a boost on how valuable books are that even at the times of dismay, Alia couldn't just leave them be. A Book is a treasure, and a treasure must be treasured by all means.

Cool lesson, from a true story.
Driss El bouki
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
قصة حقيقية وجميلة بالفعل..يمكن تحويلها إلى فيلم دراماتيكي غاية في الروعة..
Lisa Vegan
Oct 19, 2008 rated it liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
Inspiring story of Alia Muhammad Baker, the librarian who rescued 30,000 books from the Basra library during the Iraq War in 2003 and hid them in her home, the homes of friends, and a nearby restaurant. I read today in the National Coalition Against Censorship's e-newsletter that one of Ms. Winter's other books, Nasreen's Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, is being challenged by parents in Wisconsin, but that book was checked out so I found this one. This is a lovely piece about the h ...more
Dov Zeller
A beautiful picture book that tells the story of Alia Muhammad Baker, a librarian in Basra who goes to great lengths to protect her library's books during wartime. There's not much text in it. It's very short and simplified. I think even in a kids book there could have been a tiny bit more in the way of detail about Baker and the war and her wartime activities. But, it's still lovely and I'm glad I read it and I imagine it could be a great conversation starter when talking to kids about any numb ...more
Mar 07, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Borrowed this from PNM via Overdrive. I love the illustration. But the story-telling pace is a bit off for me.

Can't imagine the actual struggle to take good care of the books Alia Muhammad Baker owned from one place to another safely. 30,000 books!!! When you love books and realize the importance to preserve it, no difficulty come in the way will be able to stop you.
Apr 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
It was wonderful!

This book is set against a backdrop of an invaded Iraq. A librarian who finds her library in danger of obliteration by the hands of the soldiers moves all the books to her and her friends' place.

This is a story which celebrates the joy of reading books. It is rare to find people who are ready to give up their lives to save books. This picture book narrates in a benign manner how books can become more cherished and dear to your heart than even your life. Books have empowered us a
Mar 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Another banned books selection. This true story is about a librarian who saved 70% of her library's books knowing that the likelihood of our being bombed and burned was high. Another one I wouldn't hesitate to put in the hands of a child. I would love to find out more about this woman!
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“In the Koran, the first thing God said to Muhammed was 'Read.” 25 likes
“Her library is a meeting place for all who love books. They discuss matters of the world and matters of the spirit.” 11 likes
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