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*Starred Review* Gr. 4-7. The story of Iraqi librarian Alia Muhammed Baker, who, fearing looting and bombs, hid more than 30,000 books prior to the invasion of Iraq, is so compelling that two author-illustrators have retold it: Jeanette Winter, in her parable-like picture book The Librarian of Basra [BKL D 1 04], and Stamaty, in this graphic novel. Sequential panels concisely depict complex sequences of actions and emotions, allowing Stamaty to pack more detail into 32 pages than is possible in a traditional picture book. Stamaty's black-and-white ink, graphite, and wash artwork is equally nuanced; one can even discern the eerie, flickering shadows cast by the burning library across townspeople's faces. Younger readers will be instantly drawn by the story's anthropomorphic book emcee, but this sophisticated and timely work will also appeal to adult admirers of Spiegelman's Maus books and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis memoirs. An afterword about historical libraries of the Middle East sidesteps the knotty issue of current developments in Iraq, and Stamaty provides no source notes. Nonetheless, readers will come away powerfully moved by the expression of civilian life in the midst of wartime chaos. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Mark Alan Stamaty lives in New York City.