This list was compiled from a multitude of sources including outreach programs at the University of Arizona and the University of Portland, as well as the Middle East Outreach Council and independent research. MEOC book award recipients are noted with an *. Intermediate elementary, middle school, high school, and general book lists are forthcoming. The suggested grade or age range will not apply to all situations so use your best judgment when considering your children or students. Some of the texts may be dated and hard to access but have been included for their underlying value and contribution to the children’s literary canon on the Middle East and Islam. We remain available to assist you in your search if there is a subject or country area not addressed within these lists. Please contact email@example.com if you have any comments or recommendations!
Pre-K through Grade 2
Organized by Category & Country
This list was compiled from a
multitude of sources including outreach programs at the University of Arizona
and the University of Portland, as well as the Middle East Outreach Council and independent research. The suggested grade or age range will not apply to all situations so use your best judgment when considering your children or students. Some of the texts may be dated and hard to access but have been included for their overall value added to children’s literary material on the Middle East and Islam.
*The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Arabia
by Mary Beardwood, 2008. 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.
Arab Science and Invention in the Golden
Age by Anne Blanchard (author) and Emmanuel Cerisier (illustrator), 2008. The
first third of this book, a quality overview of the building of the Muslim
Empire, is the strength of the work. It is followed by chapters covering
specific scientists and mathematicians from each century, which are not as
strong, partly due to their organization. Each section describes the relevant
location and time period in as many as three pages of text before introducing
the subject. Overall, the book is a good introduction to the era, but it is
less strong as a discussion of the science and invention of the title. - School
Library Journal Review.
The Most Magnificent Mosque by Ann
Jungman and Shelley
Fowles, 2007. This is a beautifully illustrated book about medieval Spain and
its Muslim heritage. Appropriate for grades 1 and above.
Mosque by David Macaulay, 2008. Macauley’s
book 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.
books offer age appropriate stories about the religious experience in the
Middle East as well as factual information about Islam and Judaism
*The Best Eid Ever by Asma Mobin-Uddin,
illustrated by Laura Jacobsen, 2007. The Eid al-Adha is the biggest holiday in
the Islamic calendar, but this year Aneesa hardly feels like celebrating
because her parents are in far away Saudi Arabia making the pilgrimage to
Mecca. Then, Aneesa meets two young refugees who have just arrived in the U.S.,
and she decides to help the girls celebrate and make it the best Eid ever.
Appropriate for Kindergarten through grade 4.
Camel in the Sun by Griffin Ondaatje, illustrated by Linda
Wolfsgruber, 2013. Inspired by a retelling of a traditional Muslim hadith, or account of the words or
actions of the Prophet, which the author first heard in Sri Lanka, this is the
story of a camel whose cruel owner only realizes what suffering he has caused
when the Prophet appears and shows love to the animal. Appropriate for
Kindergarten and above.
Celebrate Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr with
Praying, Fasting, and Charity (National Geographic, “Holidays Around the
World” series) by Deborah Heiligman, 2006.
Although it is at a low reading level, this book vividly describes the
customs and beliefs surrounding the Muslim month of fasting. Appropriate for grades
*Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim
Book of Colors by Hena Khan (Author) and Mehrdokht Amini (illustrator),
2012. This is a book about Islam for early elementary students. The beautiful
pictures and simple rhyming prose make it interesting to young children, while
the glossary at the end assists teachers in introducing Muslim culture and practices. Appropriate
for preschool through 2nd grade.
*Muhammad written and illustrated by
Demi, 2003. 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. Appropriate for grades 2-5.
Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story by Hena
Khan and Julie Paschkis, 2008. A seven-year-old Pakistani-American girl
celebrates Ramadan. Appropriate for preschool to 3rd grade.
Passover by David
F. Marx, 2001. This book gives religious and historical information about the
Jewish Passover holiday. Appropriate for grade 1 and above.
Ramadan by Susan L. Douglass and Jeni Reeves, 2003. An introduction to Islamic observances during the month of
Ramadan and the subsequent festival of Eid-al-Fitr. Appropriate for grade 2 and
Ramadan by Suhaib Hamid Ghazi and Omar
Rayyan, 1996. The book describes the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. Appropriate for Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Sound the Shofar!: A
Story for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by Leslie Himmelman and John
Himmelman, 1998. This book focuses on the high holy days of Judaism and how
one family celebrates those together and by helping out the less fortunate.
* Time to Pray by Maha Addasi, 2010. This
story provides a clear explanation of Muslim prayers and aspects of Islamic
practice in a story that revolves around a loving relationship between a girl
and her grandmother. Appropriate for grades 1-4.
*What’s the Buzz? Honey for a Sweet New
Year by Alison Ofanansky, photographs by Eliyahu Alpern, 2012. This book
provides information on the Jewish celebration of Rosh Hashanah traditions, the
bee industry, and life in Israel. Written for young children, it fills a huge
hole in non-fiction for early grade levels. Reviewers especially loved the
photographs showing real Israeli children in everyday life.
The White Nights of Ramadan by Maha Addasi (Author), Ned Gannon (Illustrator),
2008. Noor lives in a country near
the Arabian (Persian) Gulf. She's looking forward to the festival known as
Girgian that comes in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan. These middle
days are known as "the three whites," because they include the day of
the full moon, the day before, and the day after. It's a time when children,
dressed in traditional clothes, go from house to house collecting treats from
their neighbors. When Noor sees the full moon rising, signaling the coming of
Girgian, she and her brothers prepare for the fun. Together, they decorate the
bags they'll carry to collect the candies. But along with the fun, Noor
remembers the true meaning of Ramadan: spending time with family and sharing
with those less fortunate. Appropriate for grades 1-4.
books in this and in the following country sections contain fictional and
non-fictional works. They range from true story accounts to basic informational texts.
Count Your Way through the Arab World by Kim Haskins and Dana
Gustafson, 1987. The picture book gives an introduction to Arab life and
beliefs through the
numeric system. This is an older work and may not
accurately reflect contemporary life in the Arab world. Appropriate for grades
Goha by Denys Johnson-Davies, 1993. This
is a brief, illustrated book of Arab folk tales. (Note: Goha is called
Nasreddin Hodja in the Turkish world. The stories are beloved classics in the
Goha, the Wise Fool by Denys
Johnson-Davies and Hag Hamdy Hany, 2005. This is a brief, illustrated book of
Arab folk tales. (Note: Goha is called Nasreddin Hodja in the Turkish world.
The stories are beloved classics in the entire region.)
How the Camel Got its Hump by Rudyard
Kipling and Lisbeth Zwerger, 2001. This is one of a Little Golden Book’s “Tales
from Around the World.” Appropriate for Pre-K through 2nd grade.
*How Many Donkeys? An Arabic Counting
Tale by Margaret Read McDonald, Nadia Jameel Taibah (authors) and Carol
Liddiment (Illustrator), 2012. This humorous tale offers a great introduction
to Arabic numbers for younger readers, as well as introducing the
Joha/Goha/Hoca character known throughout the region. Appropriate for Kindergarten
through 3rd grade.
*Never Say a Mean World Again: A Tale from
Medieval Spain by Jacqueline
Jules and Durga Yael Bernhard, 2014. Inspired by a legend
about a Jewish vizier who advised the Muslim ruler of medieval Spain, this
story tells of a conundrum faced by a boy named Samuel and the counterintuitive
wisdom of his father, the vizier. With illuminating details—such as the boys'
headwear, backdrops of thick stone walls or heavy wooden doors, geometric
patterns in mauves and browns, and a vine and flower motif—Bernhard’s (Around
the World in One Shabbat) illustrations convey an elegant, multicultural castle
environment. Appropriate for preschool through 3rd grade.
Green Apple by Eve Bunting, 2006. It’s hard to be the new kid in school,
especially when you look different and don’t speak English, but on a school
field trip to pick apples and make cider, Farah begins to feel she can fit in.
Appropriate for Pre-K through 3rd grade.
*The Rich Man and the
Parrot by Suzan Nadimi and Ande Cook, 2007. Available as e-book. A folktale
once told by the famous thirteenth-century poet Rumi is retold again in this
attractive picture book. It is a story about a man and his parrot who longs to
be free. Appropriate for Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Tales Told in
Tens by Sally Pomme Clayton and Sophie Herxheimer, 2005. This is a
collection of short stories from Central Asia. Appropriate for grade 2 and
What’s the Matter, Habibi? by Betsy Lewin, 2004. This is a warm and
funny story of a boy and his pet camel. Appropriate for Kindergarten through 2nd
Caravan by Lawrence Mackay Jr. and Darryl Ligason, 2008. A
10-year-old Uzbek boy makes his first caravan trip through the mountains of Afghanistan.
Appropriate for grade 1 and above.
Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed, illustrated
by Doug Chayka, 2007. This lovely story, set in a refugee camp, tells of two
Afghani girls who share one pair of sandals. Appropriate for grade 1 and above.
*The Wooden Sword: A Jewish Folktale
from Afghanistan by Ann Redisch Stampler, illustrated by Carol Liddiment, 2012.
This is a charming story with “vibrant illustrations with rich, sensuous colors
that epitomize the beauty of the Middle East.” Reviewers also loved the
repetition of the phrase “I have faith that everything will turn out just as it
should,” which is reassuring to children. It is well written, engaging, and
colorful. Appropriate for Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile by Tomie De Paola, 1996. On a class
field trip to Egypt, Bill and Pete not only learn a lot about ancient Egypt,
but they also confront the Bad Guy. Appropriate for preschool to 3rd
The Day of Ahmed's Secret by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide
Gilliland, 1995. This nicely written story with vivid descriptions and
illustrations is about a young Egyptian boy who is learning to read while
working to help his family in lively Cairo. Appropriate for grades 1-4.
Folk Tales of Egypt by Denys Johnson-Davies
and Tarek Mossad, 1993.
*Hands Around the Library: Protecting
Egypt’s Treasured Books by Karen Leggett Abouraya (author) and Susan L.
Roth (illustrator), 2012. This children’s picture book tells the true story
that took place during the Egyptian uprising (during the Arab Spring) when
demonstrators joined together to protect the library of Alexandria. It’s a
story that helps young children to think about current events – and the
importance of books and libraries in society. Appropriate for preschool through
The Hundredth Name by Shulamith
Oppenheim and Michael Hays, 1997. This nicely illustrated story tells of
friendship and Muslim faith set in a village in Egypt. Appropriate for Kindergarten
through 3rd grade.
If I Were a Kid in Ancient Egypt by
Cobblestone Publishing, 2007. If I Were a
Kid in Ancient Egypt takes readers through daily life in a vibrant
culture that pioneered paper, linen, irrigation, medicine, and much more, and
shows how these inventions came about and how they affected the culture’s
younger citizens. Appropriate for grades 1-5.
Nesma Buys the Beans by Chris Smith and Aurlia Fronty, 1995. A tale
of two brothers whose secret sharing of grain with one another results in a
mystery. This is a good story to
Celebrating Norouz (Persian New Year)
by Yassaman Jalali, 2003. Description of the most popular Iranian holiday,
Persian New Year, celebrated March 21st, the first day of spring.
*Count Your Way
through Iran by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson, illustrated by Farida
Zaman, 2006. This is an excellent, apolitical introduction to Iran’s culture.
Appropriate for grade 2 and above.
The Legend of the
Persian Carpet by Tomie Da Paola and Claire Stewart, 1993. This is a
Persian folktale retold by the uthor of Strega Nona. Appropriate for preschool
through grade 3.The Little Black Fish by Samad Behrangi,
multiple prints – 1971, 1997, 2008, 2015. This classic Iranian short story is
made to be read aloud to older elementary school children through adults. It
has many different levels of meaning - about breaking out of one’s narrow
environment and learning about the wider world. This small book also is written
half in Persian, so kids can see what the language looks like and how the cover
of a Middle Eastern book is the back of an American one (since they write from
right to left).
*Mystery Bottle by Kristen Balouch, 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. Appropriate for preschool – 3rd
*The Secret Message by Mina Javaherbin,
2010. This book retells a story taken from an ancient Persian poem, “Parrot and
the Merchant,” by Jalaledin Rumi. It is the tale of a wealthy merchant who
keeps a parrot in his shop whose colorful feathers, singing, and talking
attract many customers. When the merchant travels to India on a shopping trip,
he promises to bring something home for each family member, including the parrot,
whose unusual request leads to his own freedom. Appropriate for preschool – 2nd
Saving the Books of Iraq by Mark Alan Stamaty, 2010. A graphic novel
telling the true story of a woman's struggle to save the books in the Basra
library during the 2003 war in Iraq. It's a simple story, but the graphic novel
style would appeal to some upper elementary and middle school readers.
Appropriate for Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
A Fistful of Pearls and Other Tales from Iraq (Folktales from Around the World) by Elizabeth Laird, 2008. A Fistful of Pearls is enchanting. The bad guys are wolves and thieves; its stories are fabulous and are just the right length. Its tone is ideal for reading aloud, and perhaps this, more than the bad guys and fewer pictures, will encourage children to read for themselves. Bedtime stories from Iraq can remind us that innocence is worth preserving when real-life villains are plentiful enough. Appropriate for grades 1-7.
*The House of Wisdom
by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland, 1999. A young boy in 9th
century Baghdad (the golden age of Islamic civilization) is inspired by his
scholar father to go on a search for knowledge and wisdom. Appropriate for ages
*The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette
Winter, 2005. Another tale of Alia Mohammed Baker, this picture book tells the
true story of a woman’s struggle to save the books in the Basra library during
the 2003 war in Iraq. Appropriate for Kindergarten through 3rd
*Silent Music: A Story of
Baghdad written and illustrated by James Rumford, 2008. This celebration of
writing and art involves a young Iraqi boy in contemporary Baghdad and the
story of a master calligrapher, who lived eight hundred years before, also
during a time of war. Appropriate for preschool through grade 3.
The Girl Who Lost Her Smile by Karim
Alrawi and Stefan Czernecki, 2000. This Arab tale tells about a girl who lost
her smile and the people of Baghdad who help her find it. Appropriate for Kindergarten
through grade 3.
The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania of
Jordan and Kelly DiPucchio, 2010. Salma and Lily are best friends who like
doing everything together. They also eat lunch together every day, but Salma
always eats hummus and Lily eats peanut butter and jelly. One day, Lily tells
Salma her sandwich looks yucky, and before they know it, the girls have started
a school-wide food fight. Feeling ashamed, Salma and Lily try each other's
sandwiches, and find them delicious! Then, they help organize a picnic so
everyone at school can try each other's food and learn about each other's
culture. Appropriate for preschool through grade 2.
Kuwait: Picture Book by Planet Collection, 2012. This book discusses the land, natural world, government,
industry, religion and culture of Kuwait.
Lebanon A-Z: A Middle Eastern Mosaic by
Marijean Boueri, Jill Boutros, and Joanne Sayad, illustrated by Tatiana Sabbagh,
2006. Kareem, an eleven year-old Lebanese boy, and his friends of different
ethnic and religious backgrounds, proudly introduce readers to the history,
culture, and daily life of their country. Appropriate for preschool to grade 3.
The Olive Tree by Elsa Marston (Author), Claire Ewart (Illustrator),
2014. Using the backdrop of the Lebanese War, the Olive Tree follows two
children as they learn to share and work together by looking past their
differences. It shows young readers that compassion and understanding lie at
the heart of all friendships. Appropriate for Kindergarten through 3rd
Sami and the Time of the Troubles by Florence Parry Heide and
Judith Heide Gilliland, 1995. This haunting and beautifully illustrated story
tells of a 10-year-old boy during the fighting in Beirut, Lebanon. Appropriate
for preschool through 3rd grade.
*The Butter Man by
Elizabeth Alalou and Ali Alalou, 2008. This story provides an introduction to
the culture of the Berbers of Morocco. Appropriate for Kindergarten through 4th
*Mirror by Jeannie Baker, 2010. This
quiet, inventive, mostly wordless picture book follows two boys on opposite
sides of the world through a single day, highlighting the differences and
universalities in their lives. Meant to be read simultaneously, the stories
appear side by side as separate mini-books bound within the same covers, while
brief, introductory lines of text in English and Arabic introduce the boys, one
in urban Australia and one in rural Morocco. Appropriate for Kindergarten
through 4th grade.
by Ted Lewin, 1998. This 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.
Appropriate for age 5 and up.
*One City, Two Brothers by Chris Smith,
illustrated by Aurélia Fronty, 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.” Appropriate for grade 1
Sitti's Secrets by Naomi Shihab Nye, 1997.
A girl raised in the US goes to visit her grandmother in a Palestinian village.
Appropriate for Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Snow in Jerusalem by Deborah Da Costa,
2008. An Israeli and a Palestinian boy must work together to save a stray cat that
both have befriended. Appropriate for grades 1-5.
Amina and Muhammad's
Special Visitor by Diane Turnage Burgoyne and Penny Williams Yaqub,
1982. This children's book describes
family life in Saudi Arabia. It also includes background information for
*Folktales from Turkey: From Agri to Zelve
by Serpil Ural, illustrated by Dilara Arin, 2012. This book is a wonderful
combination of folktales and stories in combination with historic, geographic,
and cultural content. Evaluators especially enjoyed the format: short stories
with side panels that offer information on a wide variety of topics. The book
is well-written, nicely illustrated, and offers teachers many opportunities for
follow-up research or art projects.
The Hungry Coat: A
tale From Turkey by Demi, 2004. A man is judged by his appearance.
Appropriate for grades 1 – 5.
Nasreddin Hodja by Mehmet Ali Birant,
1988 – find a newer one. This is a
collection of short (often humorous) anecdotes about an early 13th century
Turkish figure. It’s as interesting for its beautiful Ottoman style
illustrations as for the stories. (Note 2: Nasreddin Hodja is called Goha in
the Arab world and Mullah Nasreddin in the Persian world. The stories are
beloved classics in the entire region.)
Looking for more?
Besides the Joha character, there is also a Cinderella story collection:
An Islamic Tale by Fawzi Gilani, 2011
Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo (author), Ruth Heller (illustrator), 1992.
Golden Sandal: A Middle Eastern Cinderella Story by Rebecca Hickox
(author), Will Hillenbrand (illustrator), 1999
Persian Cinderella by Shirley Climo (author), Robert Florczack (illustrator), 2001
The Way Meat Loves
Salt: A Cinderella Tale from the Jewish Tradition by Nina Jaffe (author), Louise August (illustrator),
Here are a few publishers specializing in children’s global literature:
Annick Press is recognized as one of the most
innovative and cutting-edge publishers of fiction and nonfiction for children
and young adults.
Charlesbridge publishes high-quality books for
children, with a goal of creating lifelong readers and lifelong learners. Our
books encourage reading and discovery in the classroom, library, and home. We
believe that books for children should offer accurate information, promote a
positive worldview, and embrace a child's innate sense of wonder and fun. To
this end, we continually strive to seek new voices, new visions, and new
directions in children's literature.
Groundwood Books is an independent children's
publisher based in Toronto Our authors and illustrators are highly acclaimed
both in Canada and internationally, and our books are loved by children around
the world. We look for books that are unusual; we are not afraid of books that
are difficult or potentially controversial; and we are particularly committed to
publishing books for and about children whose experiences of the world are
At Kids Can Press, we
take pride in producing innovative and eye-catching picture books, entertaining
and thought-provoking fiction, and curriculum-based non-fiction that opens
children’s eyes to the world around them. Every season, we publish a diverse
range of titles for children from birth to age 16. To find out about the wide
array of free materials available on-line related to their books, click here. Items are well-organized by
reading level, genre, age and grade group, curriculum, and theme, and there are
a number of series available.
Wisdom Tales is the
name of the children’s book imprint of the award-winning publishing house,
World Wisdom, which was founded in 1980. Wisdom Tales publishes both children’s
and teen titles and was created for the purpose of sharing the wisdom, beauty,
and values of traditional cultures and peoples from around the world with young
readers and their families. The content, illustrations, and production quality
of these books is intended to assure them a lasting value for children,
parents, teachers, and librarians.