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Alia's Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  492 ratings  ·  120 reviews
The inspiring story of an Iraqi librarian's courageous fight to save books from the Basra Central Library before it was destroyed in the war.

It is 2003 and Alia Muhammad Baker, the chief librarian of the Central Library in Basra, Iraq, has grown worried given the increased likelihood of war in her country. Determined to preserve the irreplacable records of the culture and
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published December 14th 2004 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published 2004)
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3.76  · 
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 ·  492 ratings  ·  120 reviews

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Dec 11, 2014 rated it liked it
I am a sucker for a good library story. This is a nice graphic novel based on the true story of Alia Muhammad Baker, who was the chief librarian at the central library in Basra, and in 2003 she managed to save 30,000 books just before the library was destroyed during the invasion of Iraq.

Alia had been concerned that the library was a target because the government had set up operations inside the building. Alia asked the government for permission to move the books, but her request was denied. She
Lisa Vegan
Mar 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: independent readers who appreciate books & libraries; readers interested in history
Recommended to Lisa by: Abigail A.
Whew! My last picture book at home. There was quite a pile. Of course, more are in the pipeline, but I really am trying to cut back on children’s picture books so I have more time to read other types of books.

I recently read another book about this woman and this situation, The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq. I did like that book, although I didn’t love it.

I did love this one. There was more background and more explanation. I love how the story didn’t start in the middle, but earlier
Abeer Hoque
Nov 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: i-recommend
I got turned on to illustrator/author Mark Alan Stamaty through my niece's book collection which includes the graphic novelette "Who Needs Donuts" - a black and white illustrated children's book with such intricate and wondrous drawings that any adult or child could stare at a single page entranced.

I looked for other books by him and found this gem: "Alia's Mission" which contains Mr. Stamaty's lovely detailed illustrations (some readers have complained about the panels being too busy, but I fi
Alia's Mission is a really solid telling of the story of Alia Muhammad Baker, an incredible librarian who saved thousands of books from destruction in Basra. The comic style works well to tell this story. I thought sometimes the language and art style didn't match up in maturity level, but overall it was a great read, and it shared important information. The additional library history at the end was appreciated.

L.E. Fidler
this is clearly a junior book, so i'll try to keep that in mind when i review it.

i have to read this novel for a course i'm taking over the summer on comic books and graphic novels. the story is relatively straightforward and short - alia is a dedicated librarian who worries that the cultural history of her city (and country) will become a casualty in the war about to ravage iraq. because books have meant so much to her, she works tirelessly to save 30,000 books from the library before it is ult
Nov 09, 2008 rated it liked it
Appropriate for ages 10+

A true story of how a librarian and her helpers saved 30,000 books from destruction in graphic novel format.

One cannot fail to be moved by the true story of this book. It tells of a librarian, Alia Muhammed Baker, who saved 30,000 books from the library in Basra, Iraq, which would have otherwise burned after the U.S. invasion and subsequent looting. Told in graphic novel format, the story shows how, without government assistance but with the help of many friends and volun
Aug 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
People call this a graphic novel, and while the art is technically drawn in sequence it felt more like a picture book for school kids. It's a good story about an Iraqi librarian who saved thousands of books before the public library in Basra got bombed in 2003. As a library school student writing a thesis about the organization of nonfiction graphic novels this felt like the perfect buy. However, now that I've read it I wish I had bought the picture book The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from ...more
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
The second book I've read about Alia Muhammad Baker and her mission to save the books in the Basra library during the first Iraq War. This one, a graphic novel, explores her background as a child who was fascinated by books and reading as well as the stories of ancient civilization. This interest led her to recall the great Baghdad library and how it was damaged, but not destroyed, during the Mongol invasions. She didn't want this to happen to her own treasured library, and she took steps to mov ...more
Mike Fiore
Mark Alan Stamaty's "Ailia's Mission" is a very short graphic novel. It tells the story of Alia, an Iraqi woman who works as chief librarian in Basra, Iraq. With the threat of the U.S. and British invasion of Iraq looming overhead, Alia makes it her mission to save as many books in the library as possible.

I'm not sure if this is realistic fiction or nonfiction, nut either way it could be used as an informational or historical piece and you could make a case for ethnic literature. If you enjoy an
Oct 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1-arab
This graphic novel details the true story of Alia, the Chief Librarian of the Basra Central Library. During the Iraq War, Alia led the effort to save over 30,000 books from the Basra Library, which was burnt to the ground. She saved the books by storing them in her own home, a nearby restaurant, anywhere she could find room. The back of the book includes some background history on the libraries of Iraq and the Middle East. This book is most appropriate for ages 9-12. It could be paired with The ...more
Aug 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A graphic novel to warm the cockles of librarians' hearts everywhere, this tells the story of Alia, a library at the Central Baghdad Library, who realizes when she hears the Americans are coming that the library will most likely be looted and destroyed.

She begins by smuggling books out on her own, but soon enlists the help of friends, neighbors and then random Iraqis to try and save the books of the library. Incredibly, they manage to save some 30,000 volumes from destruction -- because yes,the
For the younger reader, this graphic biography sheds light on an important story of survival and commitment to intellectual freedom in Iraq.

Purchased for my school library with our Read for Information grant. It's a great addition for the 7th grade Humanities project the grant addresses: little known agents of change in the last 30 years. This little book will be a great start in someone's research process.
Oct 19, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a graphic novel biography, and it was pretty good, but I would have liked more detail. It was fairly basic information.
Ms. Yingling
Mar 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Very interesting story; fairly interesting book. However, the volume is so slim that shelving it would be a problem, and I don't know that my students would pick it up. Sadly, will pass on purchasing.
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
"We will have about 40,000 very special guests! If I have enough time to move all the books."

"Those books are like people to me. Living, breathing beings."

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jon Hewelt
Aug 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Great substance that's slightly undone by style.

Alia's Mission concerns Alia Muhammad Baker, chief librarian of the Central Library in Basra, Iraq. In the midst of invasion and ensuing riots, Alia and her friends, neighbors and relatives conspire to save the books of the Central Library from being destroyed, despite receiving no government assistance whatsoever. It's a harrowing story, especially for those who love books and libraries, and it's a story you wouldn't hear much of otherwise, especi
Jul 25, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: middle-eastern
Ages: 11 and up

"Alia's Mission" is a graphic novel and tells the story of a woman who was instrumental in saving over 30,000 books from the Central Library in Basra during the Iraq War.

Alia is a librarian who sees the writing on the wall before her library is destroyed, so she starts sneaking books into her own house and other locations. When the library is ultimately destroyed, only the books she took remain.

This book attempts to provide a different perspective of the Iraq War, but it still h
My kids seemed to like this book for the illustrations and the basic story of how beloved library books were saved. Myself, I found it overly simplistic --or should I say, the book provoked more questions than it answered. For example, which texts was Alia Muhammad Baker most desperate to save? Were there copies of those books in other libraries or institutions? Was she mainly concerned with preserving her own library collection, since that was her job, or a certain body of literature? When her ...more
Shannon Amici
Mar 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 402-catalog
Reading Level- 3-6

Genre- Non-fiction Picture book

Topic- War is going on in Iraq & Alia is on a mission to save the books from the library

Social- This book relates socially to our time today because of the war that is still going on in Iraq. It could be used to help children get a better understanding.

Literary elements- This book is based on a true story

Curricula Use- Guided reading

Text & Pictures- The pictures are in a comic form which made it hard at first to follow along. Now looking a
The story of an Iraqi librarian who fought to save the books at the Basra Central Library before it was destroyed in war. In spite of the government’s disapproval, Alia inspired a community of people to save 30,000 books from the library.

Okay, so I made another attempt at reading a graphic novel. Call me a glutton for punishment! Actually, this one was much more accessible for me and I was able to read it with little difficulty. This text was not nearly as busy as "Amelia Rules" as there were fe
A short but telling graphic novel, Mr. Stamaty’s drawings adroitly portray one woman’s fear that the great literature of her country will be lost because of the destruction of warfare and the government’s vast indifference.

The illustrations are eloquent in conveying mood, activity, background and landscape. It is funny to see Alia’s home filled to the brim with books and poignant when you realize that her efforts aren’t enough.

The black-and-white-and-gray illustrations are matched neatly with
Corby Lancaster
Feb 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lled-402-catalog
Genre- Picture book

Reading Level- 2-6

Topic and Themes- Alia wants to save the books from the library. War is going on around her

Curricula use- Read Aloud and Shared reading

Social- The Iraq war is happening and the library is being used as a headquarters. Alia wants to save the books. The community pulls together and helps her.

Literary Elements- Based on true events

Text and Pictures- This book is written in comic book format. I feel it's an unusual way to portray something so serious

Summary- Alia
Linzi Wilkinson
Jan 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: amy, reading-catalog
Genre: Picture book

Reading Level: Grade 4-6

Topics & Themes: This book is set during the first Iraq war. Alia saves thousands of books from the local library before the war begins. She is a hero to many people.

Curricular Use: Shared reading, read aloud

Social: This book talks about the Iraq war that we are currently fighting. Be sensitive when talking about this topic because many children might have parents or relatives fighting in the war.

Literary Elements: This books introduces to childre
Lady Knight
Great way to tell this story! Very much a good book to read in conjunction with The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq, although "Librarian" is for a younger crowd than this graphic novel (which is probably ideal for 10 though 14 year olds).
Fantastic true story of a brave librarian who organized the saving of thousands of books as the war in Iraq rolled closer and closer. Although the library did burn to the ground, she along with a large part of her neighbours and library users managed
Dec 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Ages 6 and up.
Alia's Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq tells the remarkable story of Iraqi librarian, Alia Muhammad Baker. In 2003, Alia knew that her library- the Central Library of Basra- could be targeted in the impending war. She courageously begins smuggling books out of the library and brings them to the safety of her home. Other residents of Basra- including the owner of a restaurant close to the library- work with Alia to save the library collection. Alia and her neighbors were able to save over 30,00 ...more
Mar 26, 2018 rated it did not like it
to be honest this book wasn't the best book out there because it says books way to many times like there so about the books there not even worried about the war. when people came in a looted the library no body even touched the books. but then a terrible thing happen .... the library busted into flames and they were all sad about the books that they didn't save. but this girls said but think about all the books that we did save . hen alia started thinking about after the war how she was going to ...more
May 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
The heroic efforts of Alia Muhammad Baker to save over 30,000 titles from the Library of Basra is multi-faceted tale about the human cost of war. Iraq was a center of learning during the Golden Age of Islam and the destruction of these books and the library is an irreplaceable loss of history and culture of a nation. Illustrated in black and white, with different shades of grey in between, the dramatic story story conveys the impending doom, while also highlighting one person’s commitment to sav ...more
Katie White
This is an interesting book mostly because it's written in comic book format, which helps students that struggle reading; they can read it through pictures if they need extra help. It also is nice because it tells a story that empowers women, since it talks about a woman who did all she could to save a library after the war breaks out in Iraq. This would be good to include in a 5th grade classroom when linking historical events to current events because they could be learning about current war i ...more
Mavia cheema
Sep 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This story is about a woman named Alia who is a librarian and wants to save all the books in her library.Because her country is in war.Alia wants to get all the books out before the bombs and attacks fire up the whole library of Baghdad!!! She does not want the books to be destroyed!
If all the books are destroyed then Baghdad culture,religion and history will be destroyed and forgotten.From this story I learned that if we did not have books we would not have knowledge.We would not know history,c
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