Name of Book: The Librarian of Basra
Author: Jeanette Winter
Illustrator: Jeanette Winter
Publisher: Harcourt Inc.
Audience: This book is written for all ages – however the faith questions here are for older adolescents. Middle school up.
Summary: This book is the true story of Alia Muhammad Baker, a librarian in Basra Iraq. The invasion of Iraq by the Allied forces reached Basra on April 6, 2003. Baker, with the help of friends and neighbors, was able to save seventy percent of the library’s books by hiding them in her own home and in a neighbor’s business. She took a great personal risk because she was told by her government to leave the books alone. Nine days after Basra is invaded the library is burnt to the ground. Alia, along with friends, then has to move all of them, 30,000 books!, to her own home to keep them safe as the war rages on. She dreams of peace in her country and a new library being built.
Literary Elements at work in the story: This is a limited biography of an event in the life of Alia Mohammad Baker. The story is told in the third person.
Perspective on another culture: This story of the heroism of Alia, the librarian, reminds us of the fact that although, at the time of the invasion, Iraq was considered an American enemy, good people also live there. It is a reminder to not learn to “hate” entire nations because the politics of nations do not agree, but to remember that in every country there are people just like you and I who want the best for mankind. In this instance Alia saved books at great personal risk to herself. Some of these books were ancient and irreplaceable. If she had not taken the risk and instead turned away in fear, they would have been lost forever.
Scripture: James 1:19-27
Theology: Alia must have been very frightened of the world events that were coming right to the door of her beloved library. She was well aware of the danger that she was in as she defied the Iraqi governments orders and removed the books from the library into safekeeping. She even stayed and removed more books after the soldiers had fled. Alia’s actions spoke of her conviction that these books had a value for future generations that needed to be saved. This is what James is speaking about in this chapter. He makes the point that we must live into the values that we claim. In other words, if we claim to be Christian, then we must understand and live into those values even when it is dangerous and scary.
- Are you impressed with Alia? Why?
- When you hear we as Americans are at war with another country, do you stop and think what that might mean to the average citizen of that country?
- Why was it dangerous for Alia to move those books?
- Why did she move the books? What was it so important?
- As Christians, can you name some of the values that we claim?
- Is our allegiance first to those values and then to our country, or the other way around? What does this mean in a time of war? (VERY BIG QUESTION)
- How can we act on those values and still support our country? (Understand it is not the people of that country that are in conflict with the US, but it is the politics that are are disagreeing on. Therefore, we should pray for those in danger.)
Review prepared by Inger Manchester, MDiv, Entering Cohort Fall 2006
The Librarian of Basra by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.