Nour's Secret Library
Written by Wafa' Tarnowska
Illustrated by Vali Mintzi
Forced to take shelter when their Syrian city is plagued with bombings, young Nour and her cousin begin to bravely build a secret underground library. Based on the author’s own life experience and inspired by a true story, Nour’s Secret Library is about the power of books to heal, transport and create safe spaces during difficult times. Illustrations by Romanian artist Vali Mintzi superimpose the colorful world the children construct over black-and-white charcoal depictions of the battered city.
UNIQUE SUBJECT MATTER: An age-appropriate window into the lives of children who are surrounded by war.
INSPIRED BY A TRUE STORY: Author Wafa' Tarnowska was deeply impacted by her experience during Lebanon's civil war in 1975 — forced to hide out underground to survive, and finding tremendous comfort in books. So when she read the true story of a secret library in Syria, she instantly identified with the experience of the children there. Wafa' drew on inspiration from both her own life and also from the true story of the secret library to tell a universal tale — the tale of the joy of reading during times of trauma and stress.
GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE: Readers see Nour’s family in Syria, both before and after the war, showing how war can transform a place and its ways of life.
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING: Nour and the other children display bravery and ingenuity as they create a beautiful world while experiencing the hardships of war.
ENDNOTES: Detailed endnotes contain information about Syria, the real secret library of Darayya, Syria, famous libraries of the Middle East, and more.
- Product Dimensions: 8.50 x 10.75 inches
- Page Count: 32 pages
- Age Range: Ages 6-10 years
- Format: Paperback
Awards and Accolades
- Children’s Books: The Salve of Stories in a Time of War, Wall Street Journal, 2022
- Multi-Publisher Preview: Giving the Small Pubs Their Time in the Sun, SLJ’s Fuse8 Blog, 2022
- Hot Off the Press Reading List, Children’s Book Council, March 2022
★ “A beautiful and poignant coming-of-age book . . . Based on the author’s and illustrator’s personal experiences, this unique war story is full of hope and resilience that shines through even the worst of situations” – School Library Journal, starred review
“This dual story—one of destruction, and one of preservation and hope—focuses on the importance of reading during war and the cultural role of libraries and knowledge, especially during times of crisis” – The Horn Book Magazine
“As their city is ravaged by war, two children and their community create an oasis of hope amid the destruction . . . A warm, engaging, and informative book that’s a valuable addition to children’s literature about war and conflict” – Kirkus Reviews
“In ‘Nour’s Secret Library,’ books are a refuge for a community under attack” – Wall Street Journal
“Inspired by a true story and the author’s own childhood experience, Nour’s Secret Library conveys the comfort and hope books and libraries offer in times of struggle” – Anne Thompson, A Library Lady
“A beautifully told and illustrated story of hope and community” – The Guardian
Written by - Wafa' Tarnowska
Wafa’ Tarnowska is an award-winning writer, translator and storyteller. She was born in Lebanon and has worked and lived in several countries from India, to Australia, to the UAE as well as Cyprus and Lebanon. She currently lives between the UK and Poland, writing, translating books and documentaries and offering storytelling sessions in English and Arabic. Wafa' sees herself as a cultural bridge between East and West, and has also written the award-winning The Arabian Nights for Barefoot Books.
Illustrated by - Vali Mintzi
Vali Mintzi was born in Romania and studied at the prestigious Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem. She works as an illustrator and graphic editor for the children's art magazine Einayim. In 2012 she was awarded The Israel Museum Ben-Yitzhak Award for the Illustration of a Children's Book. Her vibrant and evocative style is influenced by painters such as Bonnard, Hockney and Matisse. She has also illustrated The Girl with a Brave Heart for Barefoot Books.