Five Picture Books To Read Today by Palestinian and Diaspora Authors

We’re concluding our series for the time being by spotlighting picture books from Palestinian authors and those in the diaspora. These books may be aimed at children, but there is no age limit for the enjoyment one can get from reading.

Five Picture Books To Read Today by Palestinian and Diaspora Authors
These five picture books were inspired by everything from Arabic folk lore to the authors' own life stories to tasty halal treats.

Literature is a powerful tool to educate, amplify and support. At a time when Palestinian voices are being suppressed, elevating Palestinian stories is more important than ever.

Fann has spent the last several weeks highlighting Palestinian and diaspora authors. Last week, we covered young adult fiction and graphic novels, and the week before, we put a special emphasis on adult fiction books. This week, we’re concluding our series for the time being by spotlighting picture books from Palestinian authors and those in the diaspora. Fiction allows us to see through a new lens, helping us understand the past and imagine a path forward that we might not see otherwise. These books may be aimed at children, but there is no age limit for the enjoyment one can get from reading.

These five picture books, written by Palestinian and diaspora authors who transcend the barriers of Western publishing, tell stories of resistance, humanity and hope.

Through literature, we educate ourselves. Through literature, we platform and financially support authors within the Palestinian diaspora.

  1. “Baba, What Does My Name Mean? A Journey to Palestine” by Rifk Ebeid 

When Saamidah, a young Palestinian refugee, is asked by her friends what her name means, she isn't quite sure what to say. She turns to her baba for some answers — and what she gets is an adventure beyond her wildest dreams. Saamidah’s journey brings her beloved homeland to life, celebrating the richness of her cultural heritage and her family’s determination to return.

  1. “Halal Hot Dogs” by Susannah Aziz

Musa's family has a tradition of choosing a special treat every Friday after Jummah prayer. Lately, the choices have been unusual — his Mama’s molokhia gets stuck in his teeth for days, his Baba burns the kufte kebabs, and his Seedi makes riz b'haleeb with an unexpected twist. Musa's turn to pick arrives, and he chooses his favorite — halal hot dogs. But the path to enjoying them is filled with challenges. Will Musa succeed in getting his favorite treat?

  1. “These Olive Trees” by Aya Ghanameh

Set in 1967 Nablus, Palestine, this story revolves around a Palestinian family's connection to their land and a young girl's determination to protect her home, despite saying goodbye.

Oraib cherishes the olive trees near her refugee camp, engaging in the annual harvest with her mother. These olives symbolize her family's ties to the land, which her Mama conveys through stories of a pre-war home. However, conflict forces them to flee, and as they are uprooted, Oraib makes a solemn promise to preserve the olive trees' legacy for future generations.

In her debut book, author-illustrator Aya Ghanameh skillfully portrays a narrative of resilience, hope, and the belief in a free and prosperous future.

  1. “The Ghoul” by Taghreed Najjar

“The Ghoul,” drawing inspiration from Arabic folk tales, tells a story about confronting fears, challenging biases and embracing differences.

Hassan’s village is gripped by fear of the "Ghoul." One day, courageous Hassan decides to confront the supposed monster atop the mountain it lives on. To his surprise, he finds that the Ghoul is just as scared of people as they are of him. Hassan and the Ghoul realize that they can still be friends despite their differences.

  1. “Sitti's Bird: A Gaza Story” by Malak Mattar

"Sitti's Bird" is the touching story of a young girl in Gaza who discovers strength and hope through her art. Written and illustrated by Palestinian artist Malak Mattar, the book portrays Malak's own childhood experiences in Palestine.

In Gaza, Malak lives a typical life until bombings disrupt her world. Spending 50 days at home with her worried parents, she eventually turns to her paintbrush for solace.

This unique children's book, "Sitti's Bird: A Gaza Story," narrates Malak's journey as an artist during the 2014 Gaza airstrikes, offering warmth and wonder to children. It highlights how art and family love help her cope with fear and trauma, a universal theme shared by children in Gaza and other places all around the world.

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