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A Million Books and Counting

Debbie Glade reviews a special picture book based upon a true story, featuring extraordinary collage illustrations.

Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books ($16.99, Dial Books, Ages 3 and up) is a treasure in itself. Based upon the true story about how people in Alexandria Egypt got together to save their library from rioters, this teaching book will impress and inspire all who read it.

The True Story:

At the start of 2011, a revolution began as the people of Egypt marched in protest against the leadership of President Hosni Mubarak. Ismail Serageldin, Director of the Alexandria Library, closed the library during the protests. But tensions grew and chaos ensued as more than 800 Egyptians died in the streets during the revolt. A large group of residents who marched to the library holding their protest signs, formed a ring around the library and held hands, successfully prevented rioters from burning the building to the ground.

The Book:

Author Karen Leggett Abouraya tells the true story of this revolution and the saving of the library in an almost poetic fashion, while best-selling author/illustrator Susan L. Roth’s magnificent cut paper collage illustrations depict the story in a most colorful and creative way. (This type of collage art reminds me of another wonderful book I reviewed called Mirror.) The Alexandria Library that was saved houses more than one million books. What I love about this book is: 1) it educates children about the facts of a true, modern-day revolution; 2) it shows children the powerful possibilities when cooperating with others; 3) it promotes the respect of books and reading and; 4) it introduces young readers to a culture that may be very different to theirs. Along with the marvelous collage illustrations that are meant to be studied and admired are photos of the library in the back of the book and factual information about  this library and the ancient library that once stood in its place. I highly recommend this inspiring book for all children around the world.

For more information, visit the Hands around the Library website.

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