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 Afghanistan.
 
Nominations for the Middle East Book Award are made by publishers, educators, librarians and the general public, with eligible books published in the period from January 1, 2007 to August 1, 2008.  The MEOC Book Award Committee is a volunteer committee consisting of MEOC members representing primary, secondary, and post-secondary educational institutions.
 


2009

MIDDLE EAST OUTREACH COUNCIL ANNOUNCES 2009 MIDDLE EAST BOOK AWARD RECIPIENTS


The Middle East Outreach Council (MEOC) has announced its 2009 Middle East book awards recipients. Award recipients were announced at the MEOC Annual Business Meeting at the Middle East Studies Association conference held in Boston, MA, in November 2009.
 
Established in 1999, the Middle East Book Award recognizes quality books for children and young adults that contribute meaningfully to an understanding of the Middle East and its component societies and cultures. 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.  For the purposes of this award, “The Middle East” is defined as the Arab World, Iran, Israel, Turkey, and Afghanistan.
 
Nominations for the Middle East Book Award are made by publishers, educators, librarians and the general public, with eligible books published in the period from January 1, 2008 to August 1, 2009.  The MEOC Book Award Committee is a volunteer committee consisting of MEOC members representing primary, secondary, and post-secondary educational institutions.
 
The 2009 MEOC award recipients are:
 

PICTURE BOOK

WINNER: The Butter Man by Elizabeth Alalou and Ali Alalou
While Nora waits for the couscous her father is cooking to be finished, he tells her a story about his youth in the high Atlas Mountains of Morocco.  Every day, he would wait for the butter man to come … surely today would be the day, wouldn’t it?  Along the way, we meet the villagers who inhabit his world, and get to know life in the Berber villages of Morocco.  Peppered with Amazigh (Berber) phrases, this story provides an introduction to Berber culture augmented by an informative note from the authors and an accompanying glossary.   The delightful illustrations round out this simple tale that landed at the top of our list this year.
 
HONORABLE MENTION: The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust by Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Durland DeSaix
The Grand Mosque of Paris is based on a true story of how the North African Muslims who ran the Grand Mosque of Paris hid Jews away from the Nazi forces occupying France, frequently sweeping the city looking for Jews to send to the concentration camps in Eastern Europe. In a world in which Muslims are often stereotyped as terrorist, this story instead focuses on the many humanitarian deeds Muslims have been done and continue to do in the world. This is a must read in any study of the Holocaust by fourth-, fifth-, or sixth-graders. The illustrations are beautifully done often using dark colors to emphasize the dire circumstances of people during those dark days.
 

YOUTH LITERATURE

WINNER: Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan
Inspired by a true story, the winning title has all the makings of tragedy: the titular Mor (“Mother” in Dari) passes away as the story opens, leaving Jameela and her father to seek a new life in Kabul.  Jameela’s weak willed father, dominated by his addiction to opium and the will of his new wife, is persuaded to abandon Jameela in the marketplace, and she is taken to an orphanage where she meets a similar group of abandoned children. Rather than succumb to the tragic overtones, however, Khan constructs a multi-layered, nuanced tale about a girl making her way in a patriarchal society, finding those who are willing to bend the rules, and figuring out how to use the strict societal norms to her advantage.  Much can be made of the differing forces and how they play off of each other (rural vs. urban; religious vs. secular; ethnic vs. ethnic; Afghan vs. American).  There is much here to explore.
 
HONORABLE MENTION: A Bottle in the Gaza Sea by Valérie Zenatti
Also inspired by true events, A Bottle in the Gaza Sea is the story of Tal Levine, an Israeli teenager who longs to strike up a correspondence with “someone on the other side.”  She convinces her brother, who is serving in the Israel Defense Forces along the Gaza border, to throw a bottle containing a message into the Gaza Sea in the hopes that someone will pick it up and respond. In this way, she meets “Gazaman,” a sarcastic Palestinian who, at first, only mocks her.  As their correspondence continues, however, their casual e-mail exchange turns into something deeper.  This “letter in a bottle” tale for the Web 2.0 generation does not shy away from deeper issues, especially in the wake of tragedies that afflict both Tal and Gazaman along the way.  This timely, topical tale is sure to inspire a myriad of follow-up classroom activities.
 
HONORABLE MENTION: Extra Credit by Andrew Clements
This second honorable mention title is directed at younger readers in advanced elementary and middle school.  Abby Carson is a sixth grade student in rural Illinois whose head is everywhere but her schoolwork (“it’s not that she can’t do her schoolwork, it’s just that she doesn’t like doing it”).  In order to be spared the embarrassment of being left behind a grade, she agrees to an extra credit assignment involving writing to a pen pal in another country—and so she meets Sadeed Bayat and his sister Meriem in rural Afghanistan.  As their friendship flourishes, problems arise on both sides.  This is an appealing book with complex Afghan characters, providing a nuanced view even for younger readers.  As if this wasn’t enough, the title received enthusiastic praise from the Award Committee’s school aged children!  As with the other two recognized titles, there is much here to explore, and Extra Credit is sure to inspire much classroom discussion and follow up activities.
 

YOUTH NON-FICTION

WINNER: The Iranian Revolution by Brendan January
Part of the Pivotal Moments That Changed the World series, this entry focusing on the Iranian revolution of 1979 won much praise from the Book Award Committee for its thoroughness, clear writing, and the use of supplemental primary sources.  Instead of succumbing to the “clash of civilizations” argument, author Brendan January instead delves into the deeper causes of the Iranian revolution, and brings the story forward to describe how the forces that triggered the revolution continue to play out in the troubled relationship between the United States and Iran today.  An excellent addition to any middle- or high school library, this book is a welcome entry to the corpus of research literature for younger people.
HONORABLE MENTION: The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Arabia by Mary Beardwood
This detailed encyclopedia entry focuses on the geography, cultures, and, especially, the flora and fauna of the Arabian Peninsula.  With many photographs, charts, maps, figures, asides, this exhaustive and beautifully illustrated text will answer every question you never knew that you had about Arabia on subjects from pearling to fossils, migratory birds to the many uses of the date palm. The sheer breadth of information will eliminate the narrow geographic and social stereotypes so many students have about the Middle East.  
HONORABLE MENTION: The Middle East Today: Political, Geographical & Cultural Perspectives by Donna J. Stewart
This textbook provides a clearly written, concise introduction to the modern Middle East.  Short, easy-to-digest pieces are augmented by textboxes and maps, exploring all aspects of the region from politics and government, to history, geography, and various cultural perspectives.  While perhaps too advanced for some high school students, this book would find a welcome home in Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classrooms or libraries meant to support them, and would also be a fresh, welcome change for many university level survey courses on the Middle East.
 

ABOUT THE MIDDLE EAST OUTREACH COUNCIL


Established in 1981, the Middle East Outreach Council (MEOC) is a national nonprofit organization working to increase public knowledge about the peoples, places, and cultures of the Middle East, including the Arab world, Iran, Israel, Turkey, and Afghanistan. MEOC’s network of educators are dedicated to disseminating nonpartisan information, resources, and activities furthering understanding about the Middle East.  MEOC’s target audience is non-specialists at the K-12 and college levels, although its services also are relevant to broader community needs. MEOC has members around the country and its services include a newsletter, member listserve, book awards, workshops for educators, curriculum resources, and a website.  MEOC is an affiliated organization of the Middle East Studies Association.


2008

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 November 2008.
 
The 2008 MEOC award recipients are:


PICTURE BOOK CATEGORY
(Winner) Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad, written and illustrated by James Rumford. (New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2008).  This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of Ali, a young boy who lives in contemporary Baghdad.  Ali loves playing soccer and listening to loud music, but more than that, he loves writing calligraphy.  This celebration of writing and art invokes the story of the master calligrapher Yakut, who lived in Baghdad eight hundred years ago, also during a time of war.  This timeless story is sure to enchant students and parents alike.

(Honorable Mention) Four Feet, Two Sandals, written by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Doug Chayka.  (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers, 2007). When aid workers deliver a shipment of clothes to their refugee camp, both Lina and Ferozi claim a sandal. When Ferozi’s grandmother points out the foolishness of wearing only one shoe, the girls decide to share the pair, each wearing them on alternating days.  This story will engage students and help to put a human face on the plight of refugee children—especially useful for students in communities with large populations of former refugees.
 
(Honorable Mention) The Best Eid Ever, written by Asma Mobin-Uddin, illustrated by Laura Jacobsen.  (Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press, 2007).  The Eid al-Adha (“Feast of the Sacrifice”) is the biggest holiday in the Islamic calendar, but this year Aneesa’s parents are in far away Saudi Arabia making the pilgrimage to Mecca.  At the mosque, Aneesa meets two young girls, refugees who have just arrived in the U.S. from their war torn country.  Aneesa and her grandmother come up with a plan to help the girls celebrate and make it the best Eid ever.  This book will help students understand the importance of the Eid celebration, as well as the important themes of charity and helping the less fortunate.
 

YOUTH LITERATURE
 
(Winner) The Apprentice’s Masterpiece: A Story of Medieval Spain, by Melanie Little. (Annick Press, 2007).  Set in Spain, 1485, this book tells the story of two teens in Córdoba after the reconquest: one is from a Jewish family that has converted to Christianity in the face of the Inquisition, the other a Muslim boy given to them as a slave.  Through short passages written in verse, the tale of these of these two boys unfolds as they witness the end of Spain’s military campaign against the Moors and face their own uncertain futures in a country flush with nationalistic fervor that views them with suspicion. This book is simply written, but contains powerful and haunting imagery that will engage even adult readers.
 

YOUTH NON-FICTION

(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.  
 


2007

The 2007 MEOC award recipients are:

PICTURE BOOK CATEGORY
(Winner) One City, Two Brothers, written by Chris Smith, illustrated by Aurélia Fronty (Barefoot Books,2007)
Written by a former worker with UNICEF and Oxfam in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, this re-telling of a traditional
story from the time of King Solomon serves as a metaphor for the “wish for the people of Israel and Palestine to find peace.” The story describes the founding of the city of Jerusalem as related by King Solomon, as he seeks to settle an
inheritance dispute between two brothers. A brief footnote at the end describes the importance of Jerusalem in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths.

(Honorable Mention) Count Your Way through Iran, by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson, illustrated by Farida Zaman (Millrook Press, 2007).
Using simple text, authors Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson introduce elementary age readers to Iranian culture by choosing words that fit the numbers one (yek) through ten (dah) in Farsi. The book travels the length and breadth of the
country, from Omar Khayyam’s famous four line poems to the seven countries that border Iran. This book makes an excellent non-political introduction to the rich culture of Iran for younger readers.

(Honorable Mention) The Rich Man and the Parrot, retold by Suzan Nadimi, illustrated by Ande Cook (Albert Whitman and Company, 2007).
The Rich Man and the Parrot comes from the Masnavi, a work by the thirteenth-century Persian poet Mevlana Jalal ad-Din Rumi (1207-1273). In this simple tale, a parrot, the beloved possession of a wealthy merchant, tricks his owner into
setting him free. While telling the tried-and-tested story of the small and weak triumphing over the large and powerful, this culturally rich story reads easily and sends a strong message. 2007 has been declared “The Year of Rumi” by
UNESCO in honor of the poet’s 800th birthday, and this is a wonderful way to introduce him to young readers.

YOUTH LITERATURE
(Winner) Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood, by Ibtisam Barakat (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007).
In this powerful, groundbreaking memoir, Ibtisam Barakat captures what it is like to be a child whose world is shattered by war. While Tasting the Sky deals with many specifically Palestinian issues, it also explores universal themes of conflict
with parents and society, the impact of war on children, and living a positive life despite hardships and tragedies. If connecting with the reader is an important aspect of literature, then this book accomplishes that goal.

YOUTH NON-FICTION
(Winner–tie) Iraq (Modern World Nations Series) by Dale Lightfoot, series editor Charles F. Gritzner (Chelsea House Publishers, 2007).
Part of the Modern Nations Series by Chelsea House Publishers, this entry on Iraq is clearly written, well organized, and nicely illustrated (great photos and maps). Written by a former contractor who worked with Iraqi universities to rebuild
the country’s educational program, this book gives a thorough overview of Iraq’s culture, geography, and history, but also touches on popular culture, sports, and youth culture. These flourishes that could only be written by someone who has
been there give the text greater authenticity and place it in a category over many of the other resources rushed to print after the 2003 U.S. invasion. This entry in the series is a worthy standout.

(Winner–tie) Opposing Viewpoints: Iran (Opposing Viewpoints Series), Laura K. Egendorf, editor (Greenhaven Press, 2006).
Part of the critically acclaimed Opposing Viewpoints Series, this volume dealing with Iran continues the series’ tradition of using short primary documents to encourage readers to familiarize themselves with opposing answers to a posed
question: Is Iran a Threat to Global Security? What is the Future of Iran? The strength of the opposing viewpoints series is that it encourages its readers to understand both sides of an argument, rather than creating an arbitrary middle ground
or attempting to pass off one set of views as “right” and the opposing side as “wrong.” An excellent resource for secondary level educators that can also be easily appreciated by the lay reader looking for more information on this
timely subject.


2006

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.


2005

The 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).

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2004

The 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.

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2003

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.

2002

The Breadwinner, by Deborah Ellis (Groundwood Books, 2002) was the winner in the literature category. Set in Afghanistan in the mid 1990s, much of the story takes place in the small apartment where a young girl named Parvana lives with her family, and in the marketplace where her father markets his skills as a reader and scribe. Through Parvana's experiences, the impact of Taliban rule on everyday life is conveyed, as is the ability of the human spirit to confront and conquer adversity.

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.

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2001

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.

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2000

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.

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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: lnucho@amideast.org.