Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt's Treasured Books by Susan L. Roth and Karen Leggett Abouraya
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012
Recommended for grades 2+
Hands Around the Library takes readers back to the protests in Egypt in 2011 surrounding the citizens' desire for Hosni Mubarak to resign as president of Egypt. Not all the protesting was peaceful. Library director Ismail Serageldin could do no more than any other one person in protecting Bibliotheca Alexandrina, but lucky for him and the library, he wasn't alone. Young people came to stand beside the library director, showing their desire to preserve their special building and the treasures inside. These actions helped "spread the democratic ideas that Egyptians were marching for."
When Karen Leggett Abouraya sent me an e-mail asking if I would be interested in receiving a copy of her new book, Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt's Treasured Books, to review on Bluestocking Thinking I think I shouted through my e-mail: YES! No I didn't shout, that would be rude, and most likely would frighten people away from me. I certainly don't want that!
Upon reading this book at home I immediately knew I was going to share it with my third grade class. It was their response and feedback to the read aloud that this post is based on.
After reading the story aloud I asked students why they thought the people of Egypt thought their library was such an important place to protect.
Why should a country protect its stories?
"You should protect stories so they can be passed down from generation to generation." Dee, age 9
"It's important to have a library because if you don't own your own books you can check out books at a library." Matt, age 9
"You should protect books because when you read you learn! I'm happy they worked so hard to protect the library, and it worked!" Ashton, age 9
Some thoughts on Susan L Roth's illustrations:
"I think it is really neat that the illustrator cut out the pictures instead of painting or drawing." Mackenzie, age 8
"I would like the illustrator to know I like the pictures very much, they are so detailed." Jaelyn, age 8
"I love the way Susan L. Roth used collages. I really like all the patterns in the pictures." Zoe, age 9
"I think that the artwork is very neat and I like all of the different colors in the book." Katy, age 8
I'm so glad I read this book with my class. We love and value our books, but we are not often faced with the thought of not having such an everyday luxury in our lives. Our books entertain us, they teach us, they push us to new thinking and make us question the world around us. Books and their writers and illustrators share a world with us that we might never see otherwise. Some of my students have never crossed the Maine border into New Hampshire and beyond. It is through the power of literature that many of our students will see the world. It is our role to help those books find their way into our classrooms and into the minds of our students.