Karen Leggett Abouraya is a veteran print and broadcast journalist (WMAL Radio in Washington, D.C.) who has reviewed children’s books for The New York Times, Children’s Literature, Washington Parent, and more. She is a past president and active member of the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, D.C. Karen, her Egyptian husband and their two children have traveled frequently to Egypt, so it is not surprising that Egypt is the focus of her first children’s book, Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books. Illustrated with the exuberant cut-paper collages of Susan L. Roth, Hands Around the Library tells the story of Egyptian protesters who held hands around the great library of Alexandria to protect it from vandals during the 2011 revolution.
Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books
Susan L. Roth and Karen Leggett Abouraya
Collages by Susan L. Roth
From the prolific author/illustrator Susan Roth and first time picture book author Karen Leggett Abouraya comes this special perspective on the recent uprising in Egypt known as the Arab Spring. When angry protests began to spread outward from Cairo and reached Alexandria, there was fear that their beautiful new library would be damaged or destroyed. As protesters neared the library, the director, Dr. Ismail Serageldin, made a plea that they preserve the library as it preserves the literary treasures of the Egyptian people. At first a few and then dozens of protesters came up to stand beside Dr. Serageldin and joined hands in a protective ring around the library. Bibliotheca Alexandrina stands approximately where the ancient library stood until 400 CE. This beautiful modern structure, completed in 2002, is surrounded by carved stones bearing the letters/signs of five hundred different alphabets. In spite of all the violence that accompanied the protests, the library was spared because it meant so much to so many. Colorful two-page collages portray the many different colors of the protestors and protectors, with architectural elements represented in the background. Annotated photographs of protesters, the interior and exterior of the library, librarians and patrons follow the text. There are also brief summaries describing the ancient and current library as well as the protests. A short list of resources, translations of words on the protest signs, and an author’s note are included. This is an excellent resource to help young children understand a big event in a more personal way, and could spark discussions on the role of citizen protests in bringing about change. Certainly the forces that ignited these demonstrations in 2011 continue to fill the news today. 2012, Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Group, $16.99. Ages 4 to 10. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).
Karen and Susan speak together or individually about their book; Karen also Skypes with school groups. Schools or libraries may request presentations that highlight:
- writing and illustrating Hands Around the Library
- crafting a story for children from an actual news event
- building a sense of civic engagement and peaceful protest
- nurturing multicultural understanding
Karen’s presentations include PowerPoint slides of the art process as well as photographs of the events and places in Egypt where the story takes place. Karen’s fees are negotiable. Her audience size is flexible depending on the nature of the program. It is advisable to bring no more than two grade levels together for a single presentation. Karen also presents to adult groups and conferences. Transportation and lodging costs to be paid by sponsoring organization.
For specific information regarding Hands Around the Library visit the following sites.
- Core Curriculum Standards: www.handsaroundthelibrary.com/educators-and-librarians/core-standards
- Topics and Recommendations: www.handsaroundthelibrary.com/educators-and-librarians/visits
- Classroom Activities and Discussions: www.handsaroundthelibrary.com/educators-and-librarians/activities
To learn more about Karen Leggett Abouraya and her publications please visit www.handsaroundthelibrary.com.