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ALIA’S MISSION by Mark Alan Stamaty


Saving the Books of Iraq

by Mark Alan Stamaty & illustrated by Mark Alan Stamaty

Age Range: 7 - 10

Pub Date: Dec. 14th, 2004
ISBN: 0-375-83217-3
Publisher: Knopf

Cartoonist Stamaty sees Alia of Basra as a superhero, and tells her story in black-and-white graphic-novel format. Alia was the librarian of Basra in Iraq, who, as American and British soldiers came to topple Saddam, increasingly feared for her book collection, “the irreplaceable collective memory of our people.” When she could not get official help, she moved thousands of volumes into her own home and, with the help of neighbors, into a nearby restaurant, although she had a stroke at the end and much of the library building was burned. Alia is now overseeing the creation of a new library in Basra. An anthropomorphized book with hands, feet, and a cheery face narrates the tale, putting it in historical context. Stamaty’s straightforward, slightly exaggerated graphic style carries the power of his story forward and end notes add information on the importance of Iraq in the history of language and libraries. Jeanette Winter’s Librarian of Basra (2004) is more beautiful, but this is both worthy and compelling. (Picture book/graphic novel. 7-10)