As we prepared the Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Blog Series and Giveaway for May, we decided we needed a separate month for Middle Eastern and North African Heritage. Asia has so many diverse cultures in it, that we felt it really needed more than one month to celebrate all the diversity and learn about it more. As a group we decided that August would be our month, so today we are beginning our Middle Eastern and North African Heritage Blog Series and Giveaway with this post. Please visit our landing page to link up any Middle Eastern and North African posts you have so we can have a complete resource for everyone on the region!
I thought today I would share a few books to help you explore the Middle East from home. All of the books I am reviewing and sharing are prizes in our giveaway! I hope you will scroll down to enter as well. The books I am sharing with you today are Middle Eastern stories and Middle Eastern cookbooks.
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Middle Eastern Stories
Disclosure: Two of these books were sent to me free of charge by Wisdom Tales Press in exchange for my honest review. All opinions in my review are my own and I did not receive any other compensation.
The Olive Tree by Elsa Marston and illustrated by Claire Ewart is a story about two families in Lebanon. The young boy, Sameer, watches as his neighbors return after the war. Their house was empty for as long as he can remember and he is very happy to see they have a daughter around his age. However she does not want to play with him and she gets upset with him when he gathers the olives that have fallen in his yard from her family’s tree. Both family’s consider the olives important. Then one fateful night lightning strikes the tree and the two children find peace with one another. In this beautiful book, one sees the reasons for the war and the solution without there being much mention of the differences. It is a nice introduction to Lebanon and especially to the one that has found peace.
The Green Musician by Mahvash Shahegh and illustrated by Claire Ewart is a tale of determination. It takes place in Persia, which is present day Iran. The best musician in Persia gets to live in the palace and play for the king. The current musician is Sarkash and he will do anything to keep his position. A young musician, Barbad, desires to perform for the king; however Sarkash manages to delay him for over a year. Barbad realizes he needs to be clever to have his dream come true and he comes up with a scheme with the help of the king’s gardener. This is a wonderful story that includes the moral of being determined and have perseverance. The illustrations are also beautiful, and it is a nice view into how life was in Persia with the palace and court.
The Knight, the Princess, and the Magic Rock: A Classic Persian Tale retold by Sara Azizi and illustrated by Alireza Sadeghian is another tale from Persia. In this tale a young knight, Bijan, goes on the king’s orders to help some farmers in Persia. After being successful, he comes home through a neighboring kingdom. This kingdom however is an enemy of Persia. While going through, Bijan sees the princess, Manijeh, and falls in love with her. She sees Bijan and falls in love with him. She tries to sneak him into her father’s palace because she does not want to be separated from him. Her father discovers him and throws Bijan into a hole and has his soldiers cover the hole with a magic rock that cannot be removed. The king of Persia asks his famous warrior to save Bijan. With the help of Manijeh Bijan is saved and all return to Persia. This is another wonderful tale to see the culture of ancient Persia. It describes a life that is so different from ours. The pictures are beautiful and fit the story as well.
Middle Eastern Cookbooks
Disclosure: These books were sent to me free of charge by Tuttle Publishing in exchange for my honest review. All opinions in my review are my own and I did not receive any other compensation.
One of the ways I like to explore new cultures is through their food. Upon receiving An Edible Mosaic by Faith Gorsky, I let my six-year-old daughter pick some recipes to try. She was interested in the picture on the cover to figure out what was on the skewers. On the same page as the Chicken Kabobs is the recipe for Marinated Chicken Skewers or Sheesh Taouk. The picture for these looked even better to her, so she wanted to try them. I decided to be lazy and used chicken tenders instead of cubing the breasts and did not bother to skewer them. The marinade has lemon juice, yogurt and lots of spices, and surprisingly my family liked it, although they do not usually like things too spicy. I did omit the optional ground red pepper and we did eat it with some flat Lebanese bread (see book below), which definitely helped with the spice.
I had also received a good number of leftover potatoes from family. (Well, actually, they were given to my mother, but since she barely eats them, she had me take them). So I decided to make the Herbed Potato Salad or Salatit Batata. This salad is a family favorite. I did not peel the potatoes as the recipe said, but I never peel the potatoes since the peels are the most nutritious part. Plus I used a red potato, a golden potato and a russet potato so the peels added some fun color. I also chose to make Spiced Green Beans with Tomatoes or Loubieh Bil Zayt. My sauce never thickened and I overcooked the green beans trying to thicken it, but I thought it was very tasty. My family did not. I guess it was too spicy for them though the spices in it were not the hot kind.
This book gives general Middle Eastern recipes, without specifying which country the recipe came from. It is a beautiful book with very easy to follow recipes. We have really enjoyed it.
The Complete Middle East Cookbook by Tess Mallos divides the recipes by country/region. We focused on recipes from Lebanon and Iran because those are this month’s and last month’s countries for Global Learning for Kids. We made Tabbouleh and Lebanese Flat Bread or Khoubiz as well as Stuffed Zucchini with Yogurt or Kousa Mihshi Bi Laban as part of our exploration of Lebanon. We also tried Peach Sauce with Chicken or Khoreshe Holu. I have linked to all of these recipes which I found online. Overall we liked the flat bread and tabbouleh. The stuffed zucchini was all right and the peach sauce was delicious but we were not crazy about the chicken with it.
This book is full of so many recipes from the region, and I love that it is divided by country/region. I know this will be our go-to book for exploring the Middle East in the future as well. The recipes are easy to follow and the photographs are tempting.
Our giveaway runs through the month of August, so enter below for a chance to win! Some prizes have shipping restrictions. If the winner is outside of the shipping area of one of the prizes, that prize will then be included in the next prize package. (See our full giveaway rules).
From Tuttle Publishing, The Complete Middle East Cookbook: Traditional recipes with clear instructions for the modern cook
From Medina Publishing, Discovering Islamic Art: A generously illustrated child’s guide to Islamic art, complete with activity sheets
From A Crafty Arab, Arabic Animal Alphabet Poster: Beautiful artwork with unique designs to teach Arabic letters
From Wisdom Tales Press, The Olive Tree (US shipping only): A beautiful tale of friendship set in Lebanon
From Tuttle Publishing, An Edible Mosaic: A cookbook of favorite Middle Eastern recipes
From Wisdom Tales Press, The Compassionate Warrior: Abd el-Kader of Algeria (US shipping only): Fascinating biography of Emir Abdel Kader, heroic 19th century leader and a pioneer in interfaith dialogue
From Wisdom Tales Press, The Green Musician (US shipping only): A magical story of patience and determination, adapted from the original Persian tale
From GeoToys, Geo Puzzle Africa and the Middle East (US contiguous states shipping only): Jumbo sized puzzle for ages 4 and up
From Chicago Review Press, Kid’s Guide to Arab American History (US shipping only): Award-winning guide to the diversity of Arab American experience, with fun extension activities and biographies of famous Arab Americans
From Wisdom Tales Press, The Knight, the Princess & the Magic Rock (US shipping only): A retelling of a legendary Persian tale of heroism and love.
From Salaam Designs, 4 piece Holiday Cookie Cutter set (US shipping only): boxed set: Boxed set perfect for Ramadan and Eid includes Crescent, Star, Ramadan lantern (Fanoos), & Mosque.
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3 thoughts on “Books to Help You Explore the Middle East”
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What a neat selection of books! So much interesting stuff to learn about.
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