Welcome to my strand of the worldwide web! Don't worry--it's not sticky. You can make your way around it easily to learn something about me and what I write for young people.
This year, 2014, is shaping up. I've just recently learned that I'll be on the program at the 34th Congress of IBBY (International Board of Books for Young People) in Mexico City in September. It'll be my first time South of the Border, and I'm pretty excited!
Much of 2013 was pretty quiet for me (health reasons), but in the fall I was lucky enough to visit St. Louis twice: for the USBBY conference (U.S. chapter of IBBY), where I gave a talk on Muslims in YA literature; and the NCSS conference (Social Studies), where my publisher, Wisdom Tales Press, had a booth and I signed copies of THE COMPASSIONATE WARRIOR for two hours straight. Fun!
THE COMPASSIONATE WARRIOR: ABD EL-KADER OF ALGERIA is about the Emir Abd el-Kader, young and dashing, who led resistance to the French conquest of Algeria in the 1830s and '40s. Later, exiled to Damascus, he saved the lives of several thousand local Christians when bloody riots broke out in 1860. A truly amazing man, in his quieter moments he was an interfaith bridge-builder, especially Christianity and Islam. My book has won some distinctions, including the nonfiction award for 2013 from the Middle East Outreach Council.
Right after I finished that book, in the fall of 2012, I left for the West Bank, Palestine, to help launch the Arabic version of my book SANTA CLAUS IN BAGHDAD AND OTHER STORIES ABOUT TEENS IN THE ARAB WORLD. The publisher, Tamer Institute for Community Education, sent me to various towns and villages to speak to students, librarians, and teachers, for a wonderful ten days.
( I'll add a reminder here about the film made from the "Santa Claus in Baghdad" story, by an independent film producer in Boston, Raouf Zaki. It did well at film festivals across the country and is available on DVD, including educational material for classroom discussion. Please see the film's website--www.santaclausinbaghdad.com, also a link from this site.)
Also coming out this year from Wisdom Tales Press is THE OLIVE TREE, a short story set in Lebanon after a long war, illustrated by Claire Ewart. Years ago, Claire and I talked about someday doing a book together, and at last it's happening. All of Wisdom Tales' picture books are quite spectacular.
Although I grew up in Massachusetts and live in Indiana, much of my writing is about the Middle East and North Africa, where I've lived and traveled for many years. If you're a student, I hope you'll find my books a good way to "get there"--and if you're a teacher, you'll find that they help bring the Middle East into the classroom. To get the talk flowing, I've included some "let's talk about" questions for each book, on this site. Many adults, too, find my books an effective and unusual introduction to the Exotic East, ancient and modern.
Ahlan wa sahlan--Welcome! And read on!