The Middle East Book Award
MEOC established the Middle East Book Award in 1999 to recognize books for children and young adults that contribute meaning-fully to an understanding of the Middle East. Books are judged on the authenticity of their portrayal of a Middle Eastern subject, as well as on their characterization, plot, and appeal for the intended audience. Awards are announced in November for books published during the period from January of the previous year through September of the current year.
For the purposes of this
award, “The Middle East” is defined as the Arab World, Iran, Israel, Turkey, and
MIDDLE EAST OUTREACH COUNCIL ANNOUNCES 2009 MIDDLE EAST BOOK AWARD RECIPIENTS
WINNER: The Butter Man by Elizabeth
Alalou and Ali Alalou
WINNER: Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan
WINNER: The Iranian Revolution by
ABOUT THE MIDDLE EAST OUTREACH COUNCIL
The Middle East Outreach Council (MEOC)
has announced its 2008 Middle East book awards recipients. Awards recipients
were provisionally announced at the MEOC Annual Business Meeting at the
Middle East Studies Association conference held in Washington, DC, in
(Winner) Extraordinary Women from
the Muslim World, by Natalie Maydell and Sep Riahi, paintings by
Heba Amin. (Lancaster, PA: Global Content Ventures, 2007). This
encyclopedic book provides short pieces on a wide variety of notable women
from throughout Islamic history. From wives of Muhammad to an African
poetess to a Turkish fighter pilot to an Indonesian freedom fighter to an
Egyptian singer, this book dispels nearly every stereotype about Muslim
women, and introduces many famous female role models to a younger audience
for the first time.
The 2007 MEOC award recipients are:
PICTURE BOOK CATEGORY
The 2006 MEOC award recipients are: Lugalbanda, The Boy Who Got Caught Up in a War by Kathy Henderson (PICTURE BOOK); A Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird (YOUTH LITERATURE); and The Illustrator’s Notebook by Mohieddin Ellabbad (YOUTH NON-FICTION). Honorable Mention awards include: Mystery Bottle by Kristen Balouch (PICTURE BOOK); Great Muslim Philosophers and Scientists in the Middle Ages series by The Rosen Publishing Group (YOUTH NON-FICTION); and Lebanon A-B-C: A Middle Eastern Mosaic by Marijean Boueri, Jill Boutros, and Joanne Sayad (YOUTH NON-FICTION).
PICTURE BOOK AWARD: Lugalbanda, The Boy Who Got Caught Up in a War by Kathy Henderson, illustrator Jane Ray (Candlewick Press, 2006)
This five thousand-year-old story from the land of ancient Sumer, now Iraq, focuses on the boy Lugalbanda who is assumed to have been the father of Gilgamesh. Lugalbanda accompanies his older brothers and father the king on a military campaign. When his father needs someone to travel alone through dangerous mountains to get assistance, Lugalbanda volunteers. His courage, honesty, and peace-seeking efforts bring honor to him and to his people. The story is based on Sumerian poems that were written in cuneiform on clay tablets that were found in the 19th Century but were not translated until the 1970s. Author Kathy Henderson became aware of the poems in 2003, immediately before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In preparation for creating the rich illustrations on each page, illustrator Jane Ray studied Sumerian artifacts in the British Museum. This book warrants multiple readings and includes themes that will evoke connections over place and time.
PICTURE BOOK HONORABLE MENTION: Mystery Bottle by Kristen Balouch, (Hyperion Books for Children, 2006).
Mystery Bottle is a tale of fantasy and imagination as a little boy in New York blows into a bottle and is carried to Iran where his father was born. He meets his grandfather and learns a bit about life in the land of his heritage. Pages are filled with all the many questions the boy would like to ask. Immigrants of various backgrounds who have strong connections and family members living in other parts of the world will relate to the story. Written for primary level, this heart-warming tale and colorful illustrations will engage readers of all ages.
YOUTH LITERATURE AWARD A Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird (Haymarket Books, 2006; originally published in England by Macmillan UK in 2003)
A Little Piece of Ground focuses on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and hopes of easier times ahead through the eyes of a twelve-year-old Palestinian boy in Ramallah. Plot elements such as Karim’s aspirations, sibling rivalry, and efforts at maintaining friendships transcend the conflict and physical setting. Elizabeth Laird, with assistance from Palestinian author Sonia Nimr, also show Karim’s and his friends’ frustrations and fears as they manage daily life with curfews, unpredictability in access to school, and challenges in finding a place to play soccer. The strength of the family, relationships among various groups of Palestinians, and encounters with Israelis are presented with complexity and in ways that will cause readers to think about the violence in the conflict and the responses of those affected by it.
YOUTH NON-FICTION AWARD The Illustrator’s Notebook by Mohieddin Ellabbad (Groundwood Books, 2006)
The famous Egyptian illustrator Mohieddin Ellabbad presents his “notebook” which shares how he grew up and took on his profession. He uses text, photographs, drawings, and Arabic script to communicate his aspirations as an artist. Most compelling are the questions he raises for readers, for example, “Where do stories come from?” and “How does the way you feel affect the way you draw?” Younger readers will be delighted by how he combines images and shows the change in his country over time. In this wonderfully creative and unique book, Ellabbad offers Egyptian history, breaks stereotypes, shares his personal story, and inspires readers to reflect upon their own experiences.
YOUTH NON-FICTION HONORABLE MENTION Great Muslim Philosophers and Scientists in the Middle Ages six-part series (Rosen Publishing Group, 2006). The series includes: Albucasis (Abu al-Qasim Al-Zahrawi): Renowned Muslim Surgeon of the Tenth Century by Fred Ramen; Averroes (Ibn Rushd): Muslim Scholar, Philosopher, and Physician of the Twelfth Century by Liz Sonneborn; Avicenna (Ibn Sina): Muslim Physician and Philosopher of the Eleventh Century by Aisha Khan; Al-Biruni: Master Astronomer and Muslim Scholar of the Eleventh Century by Bill Scheppler; Al-Khwarizmi: the Inventor of Algebra by Corona Brezina; and Al-Kindi: The Father of Arab Philosophy by Tony Abboud.
The many contributions of Muslim scholars to science, philosophy, and development of knowledge across numerous disciplines are presented in this powerful series. These richly illustrated books provide excellent reference sources and interesting biographical reading for intermediate level students and above. Although each book focuses on a particular individual, linkages are made among the featured scientists and philosophers as with others in different eras and regions. Availability of such a series is highly significant at a time when U.S. schools are seeking resources that assist in teaching about non-Western history, religions, and cultural groups.
YOUTH NON-FICTION HONORABLE MENTION Lebanon A-B-C: A Middle Eastern Mosaic by Marijean Boueri, Jill Boutros, and Joanne Sayad, illustrator Tatiana Sabbagh (Publishing Works, 2005)
Kareem, an eleven year-old Lebanese boy, and his friends of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, proudly introduce readers to many aspects of their country. Organized by the letters of the English alphabet, topics such as Diversity, Gibran, Olives, Phoenicians, and War are only some of the themes presented. The languages of Lebanon figure prominently as Arabic and French words are interspersed throughout the text. Younger readers will learn much from the detailed and colorful illustrations by Tatiana Sabbagh that feature images of Lebanese history, culture, and daily life.
2005The Middle East Outreach Council (MEOC) has announced the recipients of the 2005 Middle East Book Awards. This year’s winners are: Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq by Mark Alan Stamaty (picture book); Figs and Fate by Elsa Marston (youth literature), and the Historical Atlas of Islam by Malise Ruthven and Azim Nanji (reference). Honorable mentions include The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter and The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela by Uri Shulevitz (picture books). MEOC established this award in 1999 to recognize books for children and young adults that contribute meaningfully to an understanding of the Middle East. Books are judged on the authenticity of their portrayal of a Middle Eastern subject, as well as on their characterization, plot, and appeal for the intended audience.
In this sixth round of awards, Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq by Mark Alan Stamaty (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004)—was granted the award in the picture book category. Inspired by a true story, Alia’s Mission recounts the heroic efforts of Alia Muhammad Baker—the chief librarian of the Central Library in Basra, Iraq—to preserve her country’s history and culture in the midst of war. When government officials ignored her pleas for help, Alia and her neighbors smuggled over 30,000 books to safety, where they remain until peace returns to her country. Her story—told here in graphic-novel style—will inspire children as well as adults. Honorable mention in the picture book category was awarded to The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter (Harcourt, 2005)—a colorfully illustrated telling of the same story for younger children, and The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela by Uri Shulevitz (Farrar Traus Giroux, 2005)—an account of the twelfth-century journeys of a Jewish traveler throughout the then-known world, including Constantinople, Jerusalem, Baghdad, Persia, and Egypt.
Figs and Fate by Elsa Marston (George Braziller, 2005) received the award for youth literature. Five short stories about growing up in the Arab world today are told from the perspective of young Arab teens living in Syria, Lebanon, a Palestinian refugee camp, Egypt, and Iraq. Marston beautifully details the rich culture of these youths and their families, in the process helping to dispel negative stereotypes associated with young adults living in these societies. Readers will discover that their personal struggles, ideals, goals, and dreams are surprisingly familiar.
In the reference category, this year’s award goes to the Historical Atlas of Islam by Malise Ruthven and Azim Nanji (Harvard University Press, 2004). This beautifully illustrated history of Islam provides a broad overview of the economic, social, political, and cultural history of the Islamic world from the birth of the Prophet Muhammad to the present. Brief essays address pivotal moments and movements and eras, and color maps and photographs effectively complement the text throughout. Clear and concise, The Historical Atlas of Islam serves as an excellent introduction to Islamic civilization.
Previous years’ award-winners are as follows: Muhammad by Demi, Mosque by David Macaulay, and Teen Life in the Middle East edited by Ali Akbar Mahdi (2004); 19 Varieties of Gazelle by Naomi Shihab Nye; and Women in the Middle East, Tradition and Change (revised ed.) by Ramsay M. Harik and Elsa Marston (2003); The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis, and Celebrating Ramadan by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith, photographed by Lawrence Migdale (2002); Samir and Yonatan by Daniella Carmi, Traveling Man: The Journey of Ibn Battuta, 1325–1354, written and illustrated by James Rumford, and Islam by Sue Penney (2001); and Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye and House of Wisdom by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland, illustrated by Mary Grandpré (2000). Honorable mentions have gone to Ted Lewin’s The Storytellers (2000), Witness to History: Afghanistan by David Downing (2004), and A History of the Muslim World to 1405: The Making of a Civilization by Vernon O. Egger (2004).
2004The Middle East Outreach Council (MEOC) has announced the recipients of the 2004 Middle East Book Awards. This year’s winners are: Muhammad by Demi (picture book); Mosque by David Macaulay (younger reference); and Teen Life in the Middle East edited by Ali Akbar Mahdi (youth reference). Honorable mentions include: Witness to History: Afghanistan by David Downing (younger reference) and A History of the Muslim World to 1405: The Making of a Civilization by Vernon O. Egger (youth reference). MEOC established this award in 1999 to recognize books for children and young adults that contribute meaningfully to an understanding of the Middle East. Books are judged on the authenticity of their portrayal of a Middle Eastern subject, as well as on their characterization, plot, and appeal for the intended audience.
In this fifth round of awards, Muhammad—written and illustrated by Demi (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2003)—was granted the award in the picture book category. Demi portrays the Prophet Muhammad’s life in a richly colorful, two-dimensional Persian style, respecting Islamic tradition by omitting depictions of the Prophet and his family. The text introduces children to Muhammad in the way that Muslims perceive him: an honest, hardworking, and just leader, deserving of deep love and respect.
Mosque by David Macaulay (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003) received the award in the younger reference category. Macauley’s masterful work provides step-by-step details and diagrams of the construction of a fictional sixteenth century Ottoman mosque. As the author walks the reader through the engineering and artistry of the structure, he reveals the mosque’s diverse functions in the community. Honorable mention was given to Witness to History: Afghanistan by David Downing (Heinemann Library, 2004) for clarifying the many perspectives and experiences in a conflict that while much in the news, remains little understood among Americans.
In the category for youth reference, this year’s award goes to Teen Life in the Middle East edited by Ali Akbar Mahdi (Greenwood Press, 2003). This compilation offers insights into the interests, family and social lives, religious practices, and culture of teens in twelve profiled countries. A History of the Muslim World to 1405: The Making of a Civilization by Vernon O. Egger (Prentice Hall, 2003) was accorded honorable mention for its clear style in presenting sophisticated themes, avoidance of clichés common in introductory works, and accessibility to the high school audience.
Previous years’ award-winners are as follows: 19 Varieties of Gazelle by Naomi Shihab Nye; and Women in the Middle East, Tradition and Change (revised ed.) by Ramsay M. Harik and Elsa Marston (2003); The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis, and Celebrating Ramadan by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith, photographed by Lawrence Migdale (2002); Samir and Yonatan by Daniella Carmi, Traveling Man: The Journey of Ibn Battuta, 1325–1354, written and illustrated by James Rumford, and Islam by Sue Penney (2001); and Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye and House of Wisdom by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland, illustrated by Mary Grandpré (2000). Ted Lewin’s The Storytellers received honorable mention in 2000.
In this fourth round of awards, 19 Varieties of Gazelle by acclaimed poet Naomi Shihab Nye (Greenwillow Books, 2002) received the award in the literature category. Nye compiled this moving collection of poignant moments and memories of Jerusalem, Palestine, and her family after September 11, 2001. It serves as a testimony to the painfulness of war, the yearning for peace, and the universal strength of the human spirit.
In the reference book category, this year’s winning entry was Women in the Middle East: Tradition and Change by Ramsay Harik and Elsa Marston (revised edition, Franklin Watts, 2003). This comprehensive look at Middle Eastern women and their struggle to incorporate both tradition and change in their daily lives is a major contribution to resources on this topic of wide interest. Of particular note, the revised edition includes two chapters that cover the experience of women in Afghanistan and women’s health issues region-wide.
Celebrating Ramadan, by Diane Hoyt Goldsmith, with photographs by Lawrence Migdale (Holiday House, 2002) received the award for best picture book. This photo-essay follows a fourth-grade Muslim boy living in New Jersey as he celebrates the holy month of Ramadan. Text and photographs work well together to convey, in a very personal way, the daily life and community of a Muslim-American family.
In this second round of awards, Samir and Yonatan, by Daniella Carmi (Scholastic, 2000 [English edition]) was the winner in the literature category. Translated from Hebrew, this story is told in the first-person by Samir, a Palestinian boy who finds himself awaiting surgery in an Israeli hospital. The relationships that develop between Samir and some of the Israeli children in the ward testify to the possibilities for individuals to transcend the violence around them and make peace.
Traveling Man: The Journey of Ibn Battuta, 1325-1354, written and illustrated by James Rumford (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001) received the award for best picture book. This is an introduction to the journeys of Ibn Battuta, a Moroccan scholar who set off to make the pilgrimage to Mecca in 1325 and didnât return for 29 years. His travels took him through Africa, across the steppes of Central Asia, into India and China, and finally back to Morocco. Blue, red, and gold are prominent colors in the striking illustrations, which are further embellished with Arabic and Chinese calligraphy. Text, illustrations, and occasional maps are interwoven throughout for a very effective presentation.
New this year is the reference book category, and that award went to Islam, by Sue Penney ("World Beliefs and Cultures" series, Heinemann Library, 2001). Written for the upper elementary level, this reference clearly and accurately describes Islam's origins, the development of Islamic civilization, and the religion's basic beliefs and practices. Sections on family life and celebrations help convey the role of Islam in the everyday lives of real people.
Habibi, the award winning book for older readers by Naomi Shihab Nye (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997) is the story of 14-year old Liyana, who moved from Missouri to her father's hometown of Jerusalem. At first it is a most unwelcome change for this American teenager and her family. Gradually, through new friends and relatives, she comes to an understanding of her father's culture, and finds her place in it. This is a well written, very interesting novel, which holds one's attention throughout and in a very realistic way portrays the issues that confront Jews and Arabs in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The picture book award winner, The House of Wisdom by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland, (New York: DK Publishing, Inc., 1999) is a picture book of highly original, exciting and illuminating illustrations by Mary Grandpre, with a well written, very sophisticated theme. A young boy in 9th century Baghdad, inspired by his scholar father, goes on a serach for knowledge and wisdom. The book sheds a bright light on the great work of scholarss during this golden period of Islamic civilization.
The Storytellers by Ted Lewin, (New York: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books), the honor picture book, is a gentle story with beautiful illustrations, telling of a young boy and his grandfather who carry on the tradition of storytelling in the market place of Fez, Morocco. A splendid book for showing modern Morocco to young people.
To learn more about the Middle East Book Awards or to nominate a book for tthis year's competition, contact MEOC Book Awards Chair Leslie Nucho, AMIDEAST, 1730 M Street, NW, suite 1100, Washington, DC 20036-4505, tel 202-776-9624, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.