Middle East Outreach Council (MEOC) 2009 Children's Book Awards Announced

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 listed below. 

For a more comprehensive list of other books available about the Middle East through CMES, please see the Lending Library Resource List.

PICTURE BOOK category:

The Butter Man
By Elizabeth Alalou and Ali Alalou
Grades 4-6
While Nora waits impatiently for dinner, her father stirs up a story from his childhood. During a famine Nora's grandfather must travel over the mountain to find work so he can provide food for his family. While young Ali waits for his father's return, he learns a lesson of patience, perseverance, and hope. Fold-art illustrations capture the Moroccan culture and landscape.

The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust (Honorable Mention)
By Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Durland DeSaix
Grades 4-6
When the Nazis occupied Paris, no Jew was safe from arrest and deportation. Few Parisians were willing to risk their own lives to help. Yet during that perilous time, many Jews found refuge in an unlikely place--the sprawling complex of the Grand Mosque of Paris. Not just a place of worship but a community center, this hive of activity was an ideal temporary hiding place for escaped prisoners of war and Jews of all ages, especially children. Beautifully illustrated and thoroughly researched.

YOUTH FICTION category:

Wanting Mor
By Rukhsana Khan
Grades 9-12
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.

A Bottle in the Gaza Sea (Honorable Mention)
By Valérie Zenatti
Grades 7-12
Inspired by a true story, 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. 

Extra Credit (Honorable Mention)
By Andrew Clements
Grades 5-8
Abby Carson is a sixth grade student in rural Illinois whose head is everywhere but her schoolwork. 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.

YOUTH NON-FICTION category:

The Iranian Revolution
By Brendan January
Grades 6-12
This book is part of the Pivotal Moments That Changed the World series, focusing on the Iranian revolution of 1979. Instead of succumbing to the "clash of civilizations" argument, it 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.  This book is a welcome entry to the corpus of research literature for younger people.

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Arabia (Honorable Mention)
By Mary Beardwood
Grades 4+
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.

The Middle East Today: Political, Geographical & Cultural
Perspectives
(Honorable Mention)
By Donna J. Stewart
High School (AP/Honors)
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.

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