You may know that the One Book, One Philadelphia selection this year is "The Yellow Birds" by Kevin Powers. With so many programs across the city, the goal of the One Book program is to promote literacy. While "The Yellow Birds" is a strikingly poignant novel, it is not considered kid-friendly.

So for the picture book set, the One Book, One Philadelphia selection is "The Librarian of Basra: A True Story of Iraq." Linked to the grown-up version of One Book, "The Librarian of Basra" is also a tale about life during the Iraq war.

 

"The Librarian of Basra" tells the story of Alia Muhammad Baker. Alia is the town librarian committed to keeping the library's impressive collection intact during the attack on her hometown.

The mayor of Basra refuses to help, so Alia takes matters, and books, into her own hands. With the help of friends, Alia moves the books to a local restaurant and then into homes, just days before the library is burned down.

The book is based on true events and carries a message of both determination and hope, but it is not without controversy. Some parents in New York asked that the book be banned from school, and online reviews show backlash from U.S. military supporters involved in the Iraqi conflict.

As with previous choices, One Book, One Philadelphia selections are deigned not only to elevate literacy, but also to engage readers. And thought-provoking books like "The Librarian of Basra" do just that.

While One Book activities run across the city until March 19, there is a wonderful after-school program at 4 p.m. today.

Jessica Liddell will teach children to create their own mosaics at Mt. Airy's Lovett branch. Inspired by traditional patterns from the Middle East, children will use pebbles and glass to create and learn about the art form.

If you can't make it today, there are many more activities planned over the next few weeks.