Multicultural Book Talk

By: Bailey Liberty

Introduction to the Book

Title: The Librarian of Basra: A True Story From Iraq
Author & Illustrator: Jeanette Winter
Genre: Multicultural picture book
Awards: None (so far)

About the Author

Jeanette Winter was born in Chicago. She writes and illustrates children's books. Talking about her upbringing Jeanette says "My parents emigrated from Sweden to the United States and settled in Chicago, where I was born. The three of us (I was an only child) lived in an apartment building on the third floor. The view from my corner bedroom through the trees to the sidewalk below led me to daydreaming and imagining. " Now Jeanette lives in New York City with her husband, painter Roger Winter. Her two sons, Jonah and Max, both poets, also live in New York City.

Why This is a Multicultural Book

1. This book portrays cultural accuracy and authenticity of the characters.
The main character physically looks like a woman from Iraq, her name (Alia) is a traditional Iraqi name, and her behavior and language reflect that of an Iraqi woman. This is because she speaks of Mohammad and is protective of her heritage.

2. This book provides in-depth treatment of cultural issues.
In the case of this book, it provides an in-depth look into war. War is very much a cultural issue that we see among all cultures and between many cultures.

3. This book invites reflection, critical analysis, and response.
This book from from an Iraqi's perspective of American attacks on the middle east. This topic definitely opens a door inviting in discussions and reflections on these events, especially for American children.


The illustrations in the book are created by the author, Jeanette Winter. All illustrations in this book were done in acrylic and pen on Arches watercolor paper

Classroom Usage

Grade Level: 5th Grade

Literacy Standard: (RL.5.6 )Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described.

Objectives: Students will be able to determine and compare the perspectives of narrators from two separate narratives.

This book would be great to use for a lesson on perspectives. It would be good to find a book through an Americans point of view of the war and have the students compare the two. This would get your students involved in the book because they will all have experienced or at least know about the war in Iraq. Using a Venn diagram on the board would be a great way to model or explain how to compare perspectives. To have the students practice this skill I would have students each write their own narrative, but they would each be given a perspective they must write their narrative through. Then, the students could compare their narratives to see all the different perspectives. This would show the students that the narrators perspectives will influence how the event are described.

Additional Information

A True Story

Iraq has a long and proud history of libraries. The Sumerians, an ancient people who lived in what is now Iraq, invented the first written language almost six thousand years ago. They wrote with a reed on clay tablets in a script we call cuneiform. The first libraries consisted of stacks of these clay tablets.

Alia Muhammad Baker, the chief librarian of Al Basrah Central Library; the Basra, Iraq public library; worked hard to make her library a community gathering place and resource. She was proud of her country's history and the priceless heritage provided by the books in her library. As a child she was impressed and horrified by the story of the burning of Baghdad's Nizamiyah library. When the invasion of Iraq started in early 2003, she worried about the safety of her library's collection. She asked the Iraqi officials for permission to move the books to a safer location and was denied.

When government offices moved into the library and an anti-aircraft gun was placed on the roof, Mrs. Baker started smuggling as many books as her car would hold home every evening. When the British invaded Basra, the government employees left and the library furnishings were looted. Mrs. Baker convinced the owner of the restaurant next door to library for help, and soon neighbors pitched in to help passing books over the wall to safe storage in the restaurant's dining room. The library was burned down before all the books could be saved, but due to Mrs. Baker's efforts, 30,000 books were saved. Once things calmed down in Basra, Mrs. Baker and her husband rented a truck and distributed the books among library employees, friends, and of course, their own home. The library was rebuilt and reopened in 2004 and Mrs. Baker was reinstated as chief librarian.

Bailey Liberty

The Librarian of Basra by Bailey Liberty