I’m not saying these are the best books to read for the North Africa Challenge. I may read several this year that are even better than these. However, I can recommend these because I’ve already read them and enjoyed them.
The Sabbath Lion: A Jewish Folktale from Algeria retold by Howard Schwartz and Barbara Rush. I thought this story of a young Jewish boy, Yosef, who honors the Sabbath day even at the risk of his life had a great lesson and plot. The prose in this retelling is adequate, but nothing special. A little flowery language to go along with the deeply spiritual tale would have been welcome. And I had a bit of a problem with the “Sabbath Queen” who supposedly rescues Yosef from the jaws of death. However, the story reminded me of Aslan and of the fourth commandment and of the mercy and faithfulness of God. So, not a bad little book. (I’d change “Queen of the Sabbath” to “God Almighty” if I read the story out loud because I can do stuff like that when I’m reading out loud if I want to.)
The Day of Ahmed’s Secret by Florence Heide Parry. (Egypt) Ahmed lives in busy, bustling Cairo, and he has a secret. As he delivers cooking fuel to his customers, he anticipates sharing his secret with his family. Published in 1995, the book doesn’t seem outdated to me, but then again I’ve never been to Cairo.
The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo and Ruth Heller. Rhodopis is a slave girl from Greece whose only possession is a pair of of rosy-gold slippers. When a bird/god steals one of her slippers, she is heart-broken, but soon her stolen slipper will lead to fame and good fortune for Rhodopis. The writing in this Cinderella variation is quite good, and the illustrations are colorful and Egyptian-style.
Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile by Tomie de Paola. “It’s a new school year, and Bill and Pete are back in a new adventure. Their teacher, Ms. Ibis, is taking all the little crocodiles (and their toothbrushes) on a class trip to the Royal Museum. But who’s that trying to steal the Sacred Eye of Isis? Can it be the Bad Guy? Can Bill and Pete save the day once more?”
I have quite a few more picture books set in Northern Africa that I will be reading and reviewing in the coming year, but those four are the only ones I’ve already sampled.
Star of Light by Patricia St. John. Ms. St. John was a missionary nurse in Morocco for 27 years, and her novel about Hamid and his blind little sister Kinza reflects her knowledge of North African culture and peoples. This story is good for read aloud time.
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. (Sudan) Semicolon review here.
Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate. (Sudan) Semicolon review here.
There are also a lot of children’s books set in ancient Egypt, not quite what I’m looking for in this reading challenge, but you may want to pick one of these: A Place in the Sun by Jill Rubalcaba, Shadow Hawk by Andre Norton, The Golden Goblet by Eloise McGraw, Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise McGraw,
Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Semicolon review here.
The Bible or the Axe by William O. Levi. (South Sudan) “Subtitled ‘one man’s escape from persecution in the Sudan’, this autobiography reads like a novel.” Semicolon review here.
Men of Salt: Crossing the Sahara on the Caravan of White Gold by Michael Benanav. Semicolon review here.
Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail by Malika Oufkir and Michele Fitoussi. (Morocco) Semicolon review here.
The Spy Wore Silk by Aline, Countess of Romanones.(Morocco) “An undercover agent tells how she followed future CIA chief William Casey through the back streets of Marrakech to the palaces of Casablanca on a mission to prevent the assassination of Morocco’s king.” I read this book a long time ago, and I remember it as a good read. But I can’t tell you much more than the blurb does.