President Biden officially declared April National Arab American Heritage Month and in that spirit, this post will take the opportunity to highlight some picture books about Palestinian Arabs, a group that does not often make it onto our library shelves. For an excellent discussion about the absence and erasure of Palestinian stories from the publishing landscape please see this discussion from November 2022 between Betsy Bird and Nora Lester Murad in SLJ’s fuse 8 blog. The selected picture books listed below celebrate and highlight Palestinian culture, self-determination, and identity, while also acknowledging the loss and trauma faced by Palestinians due to their expulsion from their homeland and subsequent life spent under military occupation, in refugee camps, or in exile. For other related picture books about the refugee experience please see the ALSC blog post Exploring the refuge child experiences through picture books. For books for older readers about Palestinians and Palestine please see Social Justice Books and We Need Diverse Books. What other picture books about Palestine are forthcoming or did I miss? (I only included books that I was physically able to preview). What other picture books about and by underrepresented populations should we be aware of? Let us know!
Aida Camp Alphabet and The Boy and the Wall by the Children of Lajee Center. (2005, 2015) These bilingual (English/Arabic) picture books are a product of Amahl Bishara’s work with the children of Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem and showcases their artistic talents. Aida Camp Alphabet relates Palestinian culture alongside the realities of refugee life via the Arabic alphabet. The Boy and the Wall focuses on the experiences of a boy and his family growing up alongside the wall built alongside the West Bank in 2004.
Baba What Does My Name Mean: A Journey to Palestine? by Rifk Ebid ; illustrated by Lamaa Jawhari. (2020) Saamidah’s father explains the meaning of her name (persistence, patience, and perseverance) and takes her on a colorfully figurative journey through Palestine, teaching her all about its land, cities, culture and people.
Halal Hot Dogs by Suzannah Aziz ; illustrated by Parwinder Singh (2021) It is Musa’s turn to pick the weekly treat to share with his family after Friday night Jummah Prayer and he chooses-halal hotdogs with special salam sauce! The author is a third generation Palestinain-Muslim American.
Homeland: My Father Dreams of Palestine by Hannah Moushabeck by Hannah Moushabeck ; illustrated by Reem Madooh. (2023) A picture book autobiography about three sisters who listen as their father relates vivid stories that bring to life the sights, sounds and smells of their Palestinian homeland.
Salim’s Soccer Ball: A Story of Palestinian Resilience by Tala El-Fahmawi ; illustrated by Neveen Abu Saleem. (2022) Salim kicks his soccer ball so hard that it goes missing. When he goes on a journey to find his lost ball, his friends, family and neighbors all do their best to help him find it.
Sittis Bird: A Gaza Story by Malak Mattar. (2022) Malak recounts how she learned to use art to express her emotions as a young child during the traumatic events occurring in her home of Gaza. Based on the author’s experiences as a young child as she endured the bombing of her home in Gaza in 2014.
Sitti’s Secrets by Naomi Shihab Nye ; illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. (1994) Mona travels from the United States to visit her grandmother in Palestine and develops a deep connection with her even though they don’t speak the same language in this touching story by this Palestinian-American poet and author.
Tunjur! Tunjur! Tunjur! : a Palestinian folktale / retold by Margaret Read MacDonald and illustrated by Alik Arzoumanian; collected by Palestinian folklorists Ibrahim Muhawi and Sharif Kanaana. (2006) A woman prays for her own child -even if the child is in the form of a cooking pot. A colorful tale about a little cooking pot who has a knack for taking things that aren’t hers. Originally published in Speak Bird, Speak Again: Palestinian Arab Folktales by Ibrahim Muhawi and Sharif Kanaana (1989).
Today’s blog post was written by Nomi Hague (she/her), a Youth Services Librarian at the Cranston Public Library in Cranston, Rhode Island. Nomi is a member of the ALSC Early Childhood Programs & Services Committee and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.