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Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books

Title: Hands Around the Library

Author: Karen Leggett Abouraya & Susan L. Roth

Illustrator: Susan L. Roth

Age Group: 4-8

Synopsis: During the Arab Spring protestors marched through Alexandria and almost stormed the beautiful library, but a fortunate turn of events united protestors and saved the building.


The Lowdown:

My husband recently told me about a computer science theory he’d been reading about: Explore vs. Exploit. He explained it to me in non-computer science terms (thank goodness) that as children we are constantly exploring our world, discovering new ideas, fact, feelings, etc. But often the more stagnant our lives become the more we are likely to exploit (rely heavily on our previous experiences) vs. seeking out new information. Sometimes this is important, you wouldn’t want to run around touching all stoves to make sure every single one might burn you. But at other times this is a dangerous way to live. By only exploiting we don’t learn, we don’t grow, and we don’t expose ourselves to new ideas. It’s an easy rut to get into but just because we are no longer growing taller, doesn’t mean that we need to consign ourselves to cease learning. By creating an example of exploration for our children, we give them the expectation that learning is a lifelong endeavor in which we must actively participate. Diverse literature is a huge piece of that. Stories about people and cultures that differ from our own are instrumental in creating that first exposure we need to continue our own exploration.

And so I was very pleased to be participating in this year’s Multi-Cultural Children’s Book Day. I received the beautifully engaging story Hands Around the Library from author Karen Leggett Abouraya and Penguin Random House. And instantly was plunged into a world of which I know little. I was recently telling a friend about the book that I’d briefly looked at but moments after we began discussing the events surrounding the Arab Spring of 2011 we both had to pull out our phones and look up more information. And that, right there is the importance diverse literature. It raises our awareness of world cultures, events, and bares forth our ignorance. Karen Leggett Abouraya and Susan Roth both do a phenomenal job of introducing a serious and complex topic in a simple and accessible way for children and adults alike.

The story itself begins with a simple play on words: “Once upon a time, not that long ago.” Gently it leads the reader into the protests that rolled over Egypt and the two main feelings that led people to take to the street: hope and anger. Then it introduces a unique twist, informing the reader the narrator was actually there, protesting in Alexandria. It speaks to her fear as the crowds began marching closer and closer to the library (a new building built of glass and granite). As tensions tightened greater, the director of the library came out and spoke to the protestors, begging them to remember that the library was left to their mercies. Then people began to break free of the crowd and rush the library. But their motivations were of preservation vs destruction. By joining hands with the director, they encircled the library and protected it from vandalism and destruction.

Susan Roth uses a beautiful collage technique that gives a unique depth and texture to each illustration. The detail that goes into each piece is stunning and a reflection to the depth of feeling is easily reflected in the finished product. The library itself has an astonishing array of granite stones that have a collection of alphabets carved upon them. These stones can be viewed in the background of the endpapers. The pages that introduce the protest do so in away that depicts the diverse responses to the uprisings and instills a small sense of chaos without overwhelming the reader. In combination with the story it’s strong and powerful.

Hands Around the Library is an excellent selection, in that it is an informational book that introduces the reader, not only to new cultures or people but educates them too about events. It is an epic springboard for discussing protests, injustice, world events, or even the Arab Spring itself. Literature can be a exploit tool for us. I’ve definitely had moments when I’ve wanted to disappear inside a book but it is also an invaluable tool to learn. And as we guide our children in their own literary adventures it is important to remember that by exposing them to stories that are only easy, silly, and familiar we are cutting off an avenue of exploration that allows them to discuss and learn new ideas in safe environment.


Story Tips:

  1. Use this book to springboard discussions to other topics, whether they are about feelings or world politics.
  2. Go to https://handsaroundthelibrary.com/listen-to-hands-around-the-library for some great resources and more info about the book. The interactive Arabic version is too cool.
  3. Check out other amazing diverse books listed below.

I need more!

Karen Leggett Abouraya has also released a book called: Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words. For more about her check out the book’s website: https://handsaroundthelibrary.com/about/biographies

Susan L Roth has an array of fabulously diverse books. Most of which, I’m sadly unfamiliar (something I’ll be looking to rectify in the next couple weeks). Check out more about her and her delightful stories at: http://www.susanlroth.com/books.htm


Add to My Library: Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books


Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Current Sponsors: 

MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board.

2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors

HONORARY: Children’s Book Council, Junior Library Guild

PLATINUM:Scholastic Book Clubs

GOLD:Audrey Press, Candlewick Press, Loving Lion Books, Second Story Press, Star Bright Books, Worldwide Buddies

SILVER:Capstone Publishing, Author Charlotte Riggle, Child’s Play USA, KidLit TV, Pack-n-Go Girls, Plum Street Press

BRONZE: Barefoot Books, Carole P. Roman, Charlesbridge Publishing, Dr. Crystal BoweGokul! World, Green Kids Club, Gwen Jackson, Jacqueline Woodson, Juan J. Guerra, Language Lizard, Lee & Low Books, RhymeTime Storybooks, Sanya Whittaker Gragg, TimTimTom Books, WaterBrook & Multnomah, Wisdom Tales Press

2018 Author Sponsors

Honorary Author Sponsors: Author/Illustrator Aram Kim and Author/Illustrator Juana Medina

Author Janet Balletta, Author Susan Bernardo,  Author Carmen Bernier-Grand, Author Tasheba Berry-McLaren and Space2Launch, Bollywood Groove Books, Author Anne Broyles,  Author Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Eugenia Chu, Author Lesa Cline-Ransome, Author Medeia Cohan and Shade 7 Publishing, Desi Babies, Author Dani Dixon and Tumble Creek Press, Author Judy Dodge Cummings, Author D.G. Driver, Author Nicole Fenner and Sister Girl Publishing, Debbi Michiko Florence, Author Josh Funk, Author Maria Gianferrari,Author Daphnie Glenn, Globe Smart Kids, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Author Quentin Holmes, Author Esther Iverem, Jennifer Joseph: Alphabet Oddities, Author Kizzie Jones, Author Faith L Justice , Author P.J. LaRue and MysticPrincesses.com, Author Karen Leggett Abouraya, Author Sylvia Liu, Author Sherri Maret, Author Melissa Martin Ph.D., Author Lesli Mitchell, Pinky Mukhi and We Are One, Author Miranda Paul, Author Carlotta Penn, Real Dads Read, Greg Ransom, Author Sandra L. Richards, RealMVPKidsAuthor Andrea Scott, Alva Sachs and Three Wishes Publishing, Shelly Bean the Sports Queen,  Author Sarah Stevenson, Author Gayle H. SwiftAuthor Elsa Takaoka, Author Christine Taylor-Butler, Nicholette Thomas and  MFL Publishing  Author Andrea Y. Wang, Author Jane Whittingham  Author Natasha Yim

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.

Join the conversation and win one of 12-5 book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party! http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/twitter-party-great-conversations-fun-prizes-chance-readyourworld-1-27-18/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators:http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

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2 Responsesso far.

  1. Mia Wenjen says:

    This is a great way to understand The Arab Spring and how the people felt. I look forward to reading it. Your review is wonderful!

    Thanks so much for sharing via the Multicultural Children’s Book Day linky and for being a reviewer!

    I hope you can join us tonight at our Twitter Party from 9-10pm EST. We will be giving away hundreds of diverse children’s books in the form of 13 book bundles. One will be given away every six minutes.

    The questions with the book prizes are posted here: https://www.pragmaticmom.com/2018/01/readyourworld-twitter-party-11-book-bundle-giveaway/

    • Wendy says:

      Thanks so much. Ahh, I wish I could join the Twitter party! 9 pm EST is 3 am here in Germany. But I’ll be there in my dreams!

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