The best children’s books about Arabs that don’t feature camels or the desert

Who am I?

As an Arab American, I rarely saw kids’ books about Arab Americans. And until recently, many of the books featuring Arabs and Arab Americans reiterated old stereotypes, showing them in the desert with camels, or as only an ancient (and often backwards) culture, ignoring all the exciting, modern contributions of Arabs historically, and today. In the West, Arabs are often stereotyped as hyper-religious, terrorist, or war-torn. I wanted to share kids’ books about Arab kids having fun, being creative, and in loving, caring families – books that share the richness of Arab culture in a positive way. 


I wrote...

Ten Ways to Hear Snow

By Cathy Camper, Kenard Pak (illustrator),

Book cover of Ten Ways to Hear Snow

What is my book about?

A snowy day, a trip to Grandma's, time spent cooking with one another, and space to pause and discover the world around you come together in this perfect book for reading and sharing on a cozy winter day. One winter morning, Lina wakes up to silence. It's the sound of snow – the kind that looks soft and glows brightly in the winter sun. But as she walks to her grandmother's house to help make the family recipe for warak enab, she continues to listen.

With stunning illustrations by Kenard Pak and thoughtful representation of a modern Arab American family from Cathy Camper, Ten Ways to Hear Snow is a layered exploration of mindfulness, empathy, and what we realize when the world gets quiet.

The books I picked & why

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Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush's Incredible Journey

By Doug Kuntz, Amy Shrodes, Sue Cornelison (illustrator)

Book cover of Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush's Incredible Journey

Why this book?

Imagine if war forced you to suddenly leave your home, taking only what you could carry - would you bring your cat? This Syrian family transports their cat Kunkush in a basket with them, all the way across the Mediterranean Sea, only to lose him on the beach in Greece. Would they ever see Kunkush again? Reading this gripping, true tale of how the white kitty was reunited with his immigrant family, I was especially moved to see that photos of the real family, Kunkush and their epic journey were included too!  


Salma the Syrian Chef

By Danny Ramadan, Anna Bron (illustrator),

Book cover of Salma the Syrian Chef

Why this book?

Salma and her mom live in a refugee camp in Canada, and they miss Salma’s dad, who is still in Syria. Salma decides to cook a Syrian meal for her mom, but to make the meal a success, she needs to get help and ingredients from everyone in the village. I loved how making and sharing the food they miss from their home in Syria helped Salma and her mom start to build a new community. And the illustrations are as delicious as the food they cook! 


1001 Inventions and Awesome Facts from Muslim Civilization: Official Children's Companion to the 1001 Inventions Exhibition

By National Geographic,

Book cover of 1001 Inventions and Awesome Facts from Muslim Civilization: Official Children's Companion to the 1001 Inventions Exhibition

Why this book?

Ask someone to name inventions or inventors and they’ll probably think of Western culture. But Arabs and Muslims have an amazingly creative history. I loved browsing through this colorful book of facts and pictures, where I learned how Arabs invented algebra, mapped and named the stars, and made all kinds of discoveries in the fields like medicine, architecture, and language. While Europe was in the Dark Ages, Arabs and Muslim civilization flourished, and this book will reinvent how you see history!  


Farah Rocks Fifth Grade

By Susan Muaddi Darraj, Ruaida Mannaa (illustrator),

Book cover of Farah Rocks Fifth Grade

Why this book?

Farah and her best friend Allie yearn to go to middle school at the exclusive Magnet Academy. But Farah decides to screw up her schoolwork on purpose, in order to stay behind and protect her developmentally disabled younger brother from bullying. I appreciated how this book portrayed Farrar’s struggles with issues very real to kids, that adults often miss, and the inclusion of Arab culture and language throughout the book. 


The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust

By Deborah Durland DeSaix, Karen Gray Ruelle,

Book cover of The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust

Why this book?

Anti-semitism is on the rise again, but not many kids’ books provide examples of how to stand against it. I was excited to discover this little-known story of how Arabs did just that. During the Nazi occupation of France, Muslims used the Grand Mosque of Paris to hide Jews and smuggle them out to freedom, right in front of oblivious Nazi soldiers. Arabs and Jews are so often portrayed as enemies, but this book defies that stereotype as well. 


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