Middle East Book Awards

MEOC established the Middle East Book Awards in 1999 to recognize books for children and young adults that contribute meaningfully to understanding of the Middle East.  Books that are nominated for awards are judged on the authenticity of their portrayal of a Middle Eastern subject, as well as on their plot, characterization, and appeal for the intended audience. 

Year: 2017

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

Author: Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes

This is the true story of a refugee family that needed to leave their home in Iraq due to the country’s violence. Even though they could only take one bag of belongings each, were smuggled in cars, hiked through mountains and forests, hid in apartments in a village, and spent three hours on choppy water, they were determined to take their beloved cat, Kunkush with them. Long before they arrived at their destination in Norway, Kunkush ran away. The heart-broken family had to leave him behind. Through the efforts of many volunteers, Kunkush was eventually reunited with his family where he lived out his days.

Year: 2017

My Beautiful Birds

Author: Suzanne Del Rizzo

Sami and his family are forced to leave their homes when their town is destroyed. Family members takes only what they can carry. Sami is forced to leave the pigeons he raises as they seek refuge in a nearby refugee camp. The family tries to create a normal life in the camp, but Sami is devastated. Eventually three birds show up at camp and Sami’s healing begins.

Year: 2014

Razia’s Ray of Hope

Author: Liz Suneby

When a young girl in Afghanistan named Razia hears about a new school for girls being built in her city, she immediately asks her family for permission to attend.  Her brother and other family members refuse permission and note her need to work at home helping out the family.  Razia wanders by the almost finished school and by chance meets the teacher.  The teacher comes home with Razia to persuade her family to allow her to attend.  After the teacher’s visit and once the family learns that a wall will be built around the school for security, Razia’s family grants her permission to attend.  The book ends with Razia at school.      

Year: 2013

Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books

Author: Karen Leggett Abouraya

This story tells about the recent uprising of ordinary people, many of them young people, who stood for their library against violent protesters. As the violence grew closer to their library, they impulsively joined hands to form a human chain of protection. The library was saved by their collective bravery.

Year: 2012

Folktales from Turkey: From Agri to Zelve

Author: Serpil Ural

Serpil Ural provides readers of this book with 26 stories from the area that is now known as Turkey. As with many areas of the world, a wide variety of people have made the land their homes. This collection of stories provides the readers with a taste of many different cultures, a map to show the reagion of the continent from which the story comes, and some additional information. 

Year: 2012

The Wooden Sword: A Jewish Folktale from Afghanistan

Author: Ann Redisch Stampler

Long ago, a shah decided he would dress as a servant and find out what the people in his empire were like. He went to the poorest neighborhood and observed a young man and woman who appeared to be very happy. The disguised shah starts a discussion with the poor man during which time the poor man offers the shah part of his meager meal. As the shah discovers the man to have great faith in God, the shah creates a series of events to test the man’s faith in God’s provision. Each time, the man does admirably and the shah is pleased. During the final test, the man sells a valuable silver sword he was given when he was forced to become a member of the royal guard. To hide the fact that he sold his sword, the poor man carves a wooden sword that he carries in his scabbard and hopes no one will notice. The shah further tests the poor man by telling the captain of the guard that the poor man must execute a thief. Because he doesn’t want to, the poor man prays for an answer to this dilemma. He receives his answer and exclaims, “If this man should be spared, let my sword turn to wood.” As the poor man pulls out his wooden sword, everyone is amazed. The shah exposes his identity and commends the poor man for his wisdom. The poor man tells the shah that it was his prayers that caused things to turn out as they should. 

Year: 2012

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors

Author: Hena Khan

This book takes the reader on a journey through the world of Islam. Using colors to capture the different aspects of the Muslim faith. “Red is the rug Dad kneels on to pray. Blue is the hijab Mom likes to wear. Gold is the dome of the mosque.” The colors make up the world in which the little girl of the story sees her faith. The book uses many terms that young readers may have never heard of before that are used in the Muslim faith. All the words used to identify the Muslim faith are then defined in a glossary.

Year: 2011


Author: Jeannie Baker

Two boys, one Australian and one Moroccan, share their day with the reader. The stories are told simultaneously as both sides of the cover reveal two bound texts. Both boys rise before the sun to help their fathers with a task. The boy from Morocco attends a souk (market place) where he and his father sell the rug woven by the mother/wife. Once sold, this boy does an act of kindness before he and his father set off for home after making purchases for their family. The boy from Australia picks up a stray flower in the parking lot of the hardware store where he and his father select what they need to work on their fire place. The boy drops his flower at the store where they purchase a woven rug that looks like the rug the Moroccan family sold. They unload their purchases at home. Both boys share an evening meal and the families enjoy their purchases as a family. The Australian family sit on their new rug as they enjoy the boy’s picture of the family flying on their carpet. The Moroccan family sit together as they explore the world via the internet on the new computer they bought.

Year: 2010

How Many Donkeys: An Arabic Counting Tale

Author: Margaret Read MacDonald and Nadia jameel Taibah

This Arabic counting book is also a noodlehead tale- the story of a foolish person. Jouha takes his 10 donkeys to the market to sell his dates. While on the way, he rides a donkey. Every time Jouha counts the donkeys while riding one, he forgets to count the one he sits on causing him to think he’s lost a donkey. Friendly travelers encourage him to count again showing that he does have 10 donkeys each time.

Year: 2007

Four Feet, Two Sandals

Author: Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammad

When relief workers come to bring clothing to Lina's refugee camp, there is chaos as people grab the clothes they want. As the chaos settles, Lina find a sandal that fits her perfectly, but she sees that another girl, Feroza, is leaving with its mate. The girls decide that it's better to share the sandals than for each of them to only have one. The girls become friends as they meet every day by the river to complete their chores and trade the sandals with each other. The girls anxiously wait to see if their names will be on the list of people who get to go to America. Lina and her mother find they are some of the fortunate people who will be allowed to go to the United States. Feroza tells Lina she must take the sandals because she cannot go to America with no shoes. Lina returns the sandals to Feroza because her mother has saved money to buy new shoes for the trip.