Please welcome my guest author today, Cathy Camper, with her list of children’s books featuring Arab American Culture. I first met Cathy Camper through Multicultural Children’s Book Day because her graphic novel series illustrated by Raul the Third, Low Riders in Space, was widely read and enjoyed by our reviewers.
I didn’t realize that Cathy Camper is an #OwnVoices Middle Eastern voice; she’s Lebanese American. My co-creator of Multicultural Children’s Book Day will be thrilled to learn about her heritage. Valarie Budayr is Swedish American, but her husband is from Lebanon, and Valarie speaks Arabic, as do their three children.
In today’s post, Cathy celebrates the Arab American diaspora for kids. Valarie’s kids who speak fluent Swedish and Arabic (as well as other languages) remind me of how important children see themselves in media, and of how books connect us all.
We are giving away Ten Ways to Hear Snow. Please fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom to enter.
There is a fair amount of books about the Middle East and Muslim culture for younger kids, but when you try to find recent books (i.e., less than ten years old) specifically about Arab-American culture, it narrows the choices. Here are some books about the Arab American diaspora for younger kids, that I especially like.
Arab American Culture for Kids
Ten Ways to Hear Snow by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Kenard Pak
After a big snowstorm, Lena treks through the fresh snow to make grape leaves with her grandmother. Her grandma is losing her eyesight, so Lena listens to the snow instead of looking at it. A cozy winter book that explores how grandparents and grandkids bond through observation, and by making foods from a shared family heritage and culture. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey by Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes, illustrated by Sue Cornelison
If war forced you to leave your home, what one thing would you bring with you? For this Syrian family, it was their white cat Kunkush, whom they carried in a basket across the Mediterranean Sea, only to lose him when they landed in Greece. This tale recounts the amazing true tale of how the lost cat was reunited with his immigrant family and all the people that helped reconnect them. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
The Cat Man of Aleppo by Irene Latham and Karim Shamsi-Basha, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu
When war broke out in Syria, thousands of people fled their homes. But their cats remained behind. And so did Alaa the ambulance driver, first, to care for injured people, then to care for all the forgotten cats, and finally, to connect both people and cats through his animal sanctuary. Detailed illustrations reflect the true look of the city and its Syrian residents, human and feline. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Lailah’s Lunchbox: a Ramadan Story by Reem Faruqi, illustrated by Lea Lyon
When Lailah moves from Abu Dhabi to Atlanta, she’s thrilled, for the first time, to be old enough to fast for Ramadan. But how will she explain it to her classmates and teachers, who don’t know much about Muslim culture? Luckily, a smart school librarian helps her figure out what to do. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Three Lucys by Hayan Charara, illustrated by Sara Kahn
Luli lives in a village in Lebanon and has three cat friends: Lucy the Fat, Lucy the Skinny, and Lucy Lucy. His family goes on a weekend trip to Beirut, but air raids from the July War of 2006 forced his family to stay away for weeks. When they return, two Lucys are there, but not Lucy Lucy. A sensitive book for kids about dealing with loss and living through strife. [advanced picture book, ages 7 and up]
A Kid’s Guide to Arab American History: More Than 50 Activities by Yvonne Wakim Dennis and Maha Addasi, illustrated by Gail Rattray
Instead of reading about Arab culture, this book lets kids participate! They can dance in a dabke line, smoosh garbonzo beans to make hummus, craft an Egyptian cuff bracelet and pick up some Arabic proverbs and words along the way. Over fifty activities explore the Arab cultural diaspora, dispelling stereotypes through exploration. [nonfiction, ages 7 and up]
Farah Rocks Fifth Grade by Susan Maddi Darraj, illustrated by Ruaida Mannaa
Both Farah Hajjar and her best friend Allie Liu desperately want to get into Magnet Academy for middle school. But when bullies start picking on Farah’s developmentally disabled younger brother, Farah feels forced to thwart her own academic future, to stay behind and protect him. A fun contemporary chapter book, with warm touches of Arabic culture and language throughout. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye, illustrated by Betsy Peterschmidt
Naomi Shihab Nye is a master poet and a mainstay of Arab American kids’ book writers. In this story, Aref refuses to move from Oman to Michigan until his grandmother takes him around the country to collect memories to bring with him. Nye’s poetic skills and acute observations of Amen’s world will make young readers think about how they observe and remember their own surroundings. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
1001 Inventions: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Civilization by National Geographic
The perfect book for kids that love to browse big compendiums of facts and pictures, without an overload of detail. Very little is published in the West for kids about Arab inventions (which both preceded and informed the Renaissance). Did you know that Muslim and Arab astronomers named stars like Betelgeuse? Or that Muslims and Arabs invented algebra? [middle grade nonfiction, ages 8 and up]
The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust by Karen Gray Ruelle, illustrated by Deborah Durland DeSaix
Arabs are often portrayed as conniving, violent, and Anti-Semitic – but this little-known story refutes those biased stereotypes. When the Nazis occupied France, it turned out that the exotic rooms of the Grand Mosque of Paris were the perfect hiding place for targeted Jews, whom Muslims smuggled out to freedom, right under the enemies’ eyes. This tale of social justice is timely for today too, with anti-Semitism on the rise. [middle grade nonfiction, ages 10 and up]
Ten Ways to Hear Snow Picture Book GIVEAWAY!
We are giving away Ten Ways to Hear Snow. Please fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter. We can only mail to U.S. and AFO addresses.
Cathy Camper is the author of the award-winning Lowriders in Space graphic novel series, Ten Ways to Hear Snow (2020), Bugs Before Time, and a forthcoming 2022 picture book, Arab Arab All Year Long. She also writes zines and is a founding member of the Portland Women of Color zine collective. Cathy currently works as a librarian in Portland, Oregon, where she does outreach to schools and kids grades K-12. To learn more about her, visit her website and follow her @cfastwolf on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
p.s. Related posts:
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.