Diane Prather

Diane Prather

Prather's Pick: Picture books paint more than a 1,000 words

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Diane Prather

Diane Prather's columns appear in the Craig Daily Press and Saturday Morning Press. You can call her at 824-8809.

— This week's column features two picture books. The first, intended by the publisher for all ages, will warm your heart.

"The Librarian of Basra," written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter, is a true story. The setting is Basra, Iraq.

The librarian is Alia Muhammad Baker.

The library is a peaceful place that's filled with 30,000 books. They range from ancient to new and are in every language. One book, a biography of Muhammad, is 700 years old.

One day, the people start talking about war. Alia is afraid that the books might be destroyed so she appeals to the governor. Will he give her permission to move the books to a safe place? He will not.

But Alia does not give up. Every night she secretly fills her car with books and takes them home with her. But there are so many books to move.

On April 6, 2003, the invasion begins. Buildings are on fire. Alia asks her friend Anis Muhammad, who has a restaurant behind the library, to help her save the books. What follows is an incredible story.

In "A Note from the Author," Winter gives credit to New York Times reporter Shaila K. Dewan for uncovering the story of Alia and the books. She visited Anis Muhammad's restaurant and, through a translator, interviewed Alia and Anis about rescuing the books.

"The Librarian of Basra" was published by Harcourt, Inc. (2005) and costs $16 in hardcover. A portion of the book's sale proceeds will be used to help build Basra's Central Library. ISBN 0-15-205445-6

"Alex & Penny In Egypt: The Mystery of the 9 Scarabs," the second of this week's books, was published by White Star Publishers, Vercelli, Italy (2006). It was translated into English by Sarah Ponting.

The book is second in a series of "Alex & Penny" books. The first was "Alex & Penny Ballooning Over Italy." That's when the twins (possibly about 12 years of age) discovered the mysterious World Secret Agency. Now they're going to be special agents for the agency.

Via a special screen in a magic computer, special director Cornelius Misterius gives Alex and Penny instructions. They are to investigate a secret tunnel in the Sphinx in Egypt.

So the twins board a special hot air balloon that's equipped with a supersonic engine. They're in Egypt in a flash.

At the Sphinx, Alex and Penny meet up with Nefer, an Egyptian boy from ancient Thebes, and his cat Mew. Nefer needs help which requires finding nine scarabs. The search takes the three youngsters (and Mew) all across ancient Egypt.

Learning about this time in history is the purpose of the book.

There's a wealth of information in this text. The story makes learning fun. So do the 20 or so puzzles (mazes, word searches, etc.) some of which help find the scarabs. A final puzzle has removable parts.

What a great way to learn history. The book is $14.95 in hardcover. It's intended for young adult readers (probably middle school). The book can be found at the Craig Moffat County Library. ISBN 10:88-544-0159-5

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