Nour’s Secret Library

Mar. 2022. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781646862917; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781646862924.
Gr 1-4–When Damascus, once a city of blooming roses, cherries, and apricots, becomes destroyed by war, Nour and Amir are forced to take shelter with their families in the small basement of their house. Despite the scary bombings, they start collecting books from the rubble and start a secret library called “Al-Fajr,” or “dawn.” This is a beautiful and poignant coming-of-age book. Everything about childhood is as it should be: a busy neighborhood, the sights and smells of a thriving community, bustling markets, and happy school children, who are dreaming and plotting their secret missions and imagining a world bigger than their dreams. It is a universal tale of how creative a child’s mind can truly be. However, this book also takes readers on a heartbreaking journey and offers insight into how bombardments and warfare destroy a community and affect the most vulnerable. This book shows the spirit of the children and communicates that no matter the devastation around them, they will still find a way to dream of a better world. Black-and-white charcoal illustrations of the battered city are overlaid with the colorful world to depict the wrecked city. Back matter and the glossary provides an excellent opportunity to learn about Syria and famous libraries of the Middle East.
VERDICT Based on the author’s and illustrator’s personal experiences, this unique war story is full of hope and resilience that shines through even the worst of situations.

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