Hands Around the Library
Protecting Egypt's Treasured Books

(2012) Dial Books for Young Readers
by Susan L. Roth and Karen Leggett Abouraya
collages by Susan L. Roth



  • 2013 Arab American Book Award
  • Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of 2013
  • 2013 Notable Social Studies Trade Books (National Council for the Social Studies and Children's Book Council)
  • 2013 Notable Books for a Global Society (International Reading Association)
  • 2013 Best Books for Young Children by the Children's Africana Book Awards, Africa Access
  • 2013 NCTE Orbis Pictus Nonfiction Award Recommended List
  • 2013 Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices (CCBC - University of Wisconsin)

"Freedom and libraries: an essential combination. During the tumultuous days of the Arab Spring when Egyptians marched to bring down their government, youthful demonstrators and library staff stood together to protect the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, contemporary counterpart to the Great Library of Alexandria, from vandalism. Roth’s exuberant collages capture these heady moments, blending photos, papers and fabrics to bring the people’s positive actions and the building’s intriguing facade together in a celebration of patriotism and libraries. The co-authors personalize the historical events by using Shaimaa Saad, a former children’s librarian, as the narrator. The text begins traditionally but quickly changes to indicate that this is a contemporary story: “Once upon a time, / not a long time ago, / many people in Egypt / were sad and sometimes angry, / because they were not free to speak, / or vote as they wished, or gather in groups.” Young people one by one join Dr. Ismail Serageldin, the library’s director, in a human chain around the building and unfurl a giant Egyptian flag on its steps (also shown in photographs at the end) with palpable ebullience. Extensive and accessible backmatter includes information about the ancient and modern libraries, the January 25, 2011, Revolution, an author’s note, resources, protest-sign translations and graphic motifs. A stunning visual recreation of a recent historical event. "
-starred review, Kirkus Reviews

"As she did in Listen to the Wind, the picture-book adaptation of Greg Mortensen’s Three Cups of Tea, Roth brings to the fore a hopeful story from a politically charged country. Roth and journalist Abouraya, in her first children’s book, transport readers to Egypt in January 2011 where, after years of living under an oppressive government, “Egypt’s young people decided/ it was finally time/ to let their voices be heard,/ and so they began to march in the streets.” The narrator, a participant in the protests, describes how young people joined the library director to form a human chain around the Bibliotheca Alexandrina to protect the library’s treasures and its integrity as a lasting symbol of freedom. Readers will find much to celebrate in this heartening story. In her signature collages, which feature bold colors and an array of textures, Roth incorporates materials and motifs that have particular significance to her setting and subject matter. Information on the artwork, the history of the library, and the events in Egypt is included in several pages of author and resource notes."
-Publishers Weekly

Hands Around the Library has been translated into Arabic and published in Arabic by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (The Alexandria Library), Alexandria, Egypt.