Elsa Marston
children's author

Picture books, novels, story collections











Nonfiction--history, biography, social science










"Lines of Scrimmage," in FIRST CROSSING

"The Olive Grove," in SOUL SEARCHING

Forthcoming in 2014:
Fiction, young adult
An adventure in ancient Egypt
Poetry
poems inspired by animals depicted in Southwestern rock art
history, political science
Nonfiction
a look at the variety of women's lives in the Middle East and North Africa
History
Stories in Y-A collections
in FIRST CROSSING AND OTHER STORIES OF IMMIGRANT TEENS
in MEMORIES OF SUN: STORIES OF AFRICA AND AMERICA (2004)
in SOUL SEARCHING: THIRTEEN STORIES ABOUT FAITH AND BELIEF

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My Works

THE OLIVE TREE (illustrated by Claire Ewart)
(Forthcoming in November 2014, from Wisdom Tales Press)

A story set in a village of strife-torn Lebanon, about an old olive tree that causes conflict--and leads to a surprising friendship.

THE UGLY GODDESS
(IntoPrint Publishing, 2014. Originally published, with a different cover, by Cricket Books in 2002)

A different kind of story from ancient Egypt! An unlikely pair of teenaged boys--one an aristocratic Greek, the other a poor laborer from a sculptor's shop--set out to rescue a beautiful princess and save Egypt from a terrible fate. Will the unpredictable deity who accompanies them prove to be a help--or a disaster?

SANTA CLAUS IN BAGHDAD--AND OTHER STORIES ABOUT TEENS IN THE ARAB WORLD
(Indiana University Press, 2008)

What do we know about "real people" in the Arab world, beyond the all-too-frequent news of violence and trouble? SANTA CLAUS IN BAGHDAD brings an intimate view of the lives of young people in a variety of Arab societies, from Tunisia to Iraq. It's an expanded edition of my earlier book, FIGS AND FATE, with three additional stories--two of them about edgy subjects, Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the problem of "honor" crime. With informative notes on each of the stories, this book offers a window to the Middle East both broad and well focused. It will build on the success of FIGS AND FATE both as a book that individual readers, young and adult, have found enjoyable and provocative, and that many schools have used extensively in class.

Some further thoughts on the stories of SANTA CLAUS IN BAGHDAD....
Did something in the stories about Arab teenagers puzzle or intrigue you, and make you want to know more about the backgrounds these young people come from? These "further thoughts" may answer some questions--and provide ideas for discussion. I hope you'll find them helpful, and I'll welcome your questions or suggestions.

FIGS AND FATE: STORIES ABOUT GROWING UP IN THE ARAB WORLD TODAY
(George Braziller, Inc., 2005)

Five stories set in different Arab societies, about teenagers with the same sorts of hopes and challenges that young people face the world over. FIGS AND FATE received the Middle East Outreach Council award for fiction in 2005.

THE CLIFFS OF CAIRO
Good news! In 2015 this popular novel is coming out as an e-book (the fourth edition!) from Litweaver, an innovative program that makes good YA novels available again, in e-book form especially designed for schools. It will have a new title: SECRETS OF THE ANCIENT MOSQUE. Watch for it--at www.litweaver.com

(You can still get paper copies. It was originally published by Beaufort Books, 1980, and this cover is from the Hoopoe Books edition published in Cairo, Egypt, 1998.)

An American teen living in Cairo finds herself caught in an increasingly threatening mystery. Why is the distinguished-looking art collector so determined to get his hands on the small icon painting that she has just bought from an antiquities dealer?



CYNTHIA AND THE RUNAWAY GAZEBO
illustrated by Friso Henstra

(Tambourine/William Morrow, 1991)

A tale that tells you how to be a gracious hostess, how to command a sea-going vessel of any description, how to deal with pirates, and how to confront a battleship of the British Navy, just by following the example of a nice little girl.

A GRIFFIN IN THE GARDEN
illustrated by Larry Daste

(Tambourine/William Morrow, 1992)

What's a boy to do when a lazy moocher of a griffin settles down in his back yard, just where he's trying to make a beautiful rock garden for his mother?

THE FOX MAIDEN
illustrated by Tatsuro Kiuchi

(Simon & Schuster, 1996)

A young mountain fox uses her magical powers to become a beautiful maiden and live with people . . . but she doesn't count on the dangers of magic and human emotions. An original tale inspired by Japanese folklore.

"Best Children's Books of the Year," 1998, Children's Book Committee (Bank Street College of Education)
Friends of American Writers, juvenile fiction award, 1997

FREE AS THE DESERT WIND
(Hoopoe Books, Cairo, 1996)

When 12-year-old Omar makes friends with one young camel as he helps with the camel drive across the desert, he is torn between compassion and the vital promise he has made to his father.

SONGS OF ANCIENT JOURNEYS: ANIMALS IN ROCK ART
(George Braziller, 2005)

A collection of poetry. Each animal, etched or painted on Southwestern rock faces long ago, sings of the way it moves through life. These poems, enhanced by photos of actual petroglyph or pictograph images, plus notes about possible interpretations, create a unique introduction to rock art--for all ages.

THE COMPASSIONATE WARRIOR: ABD EL-KADER OF ALGERIA
(Wisdom Tales Press, 2013)

The heroic 19-century Muslim freedom-fighter and interfaith bridge-builder, who fought the French conquest of Algeria and later saved the lives of thousands of Christians in Damascus. His amazing life story and his beliefs resonate today, in this YA biography.

MUHAMMAD OF MECCA, PROPHET OF ISLAM
(Franklin Watts, 2001)

A straightforward, balanced historical biography of the founder of one of the world's great religions, Islam. Essential reading for better understanding of the roots of Islam and the importance of the Prophet's role and teachings for believers today; appropriate for Muslim and non-Muslim readers alike (grade 5 and up).

DEMOCRACY, CULTURE, AND THE GRIP OF ARAB HISTORY: ESSAYS HONORING THE WORK OF ILIYA HARIK
(Createspace, 2014)

A collection of articles scholarly and personal, written as a tribute to Iliya Harik (the late husband of Elsa Marston, who co-edited the volume), on history, politics, and political philosophy concerning the Arab world, especially Lebanon.

WOMEN IN THE MIDDLE EAST: TRADITION AND CHANGE, co-authored with Ramsay M. Harik
(Franklin Watts, 2003)

An update of the only book on this subject for teenaged readers (originally published in 1996), this edition includes a chapter on women in Afghanistan plus additional chapters on health and women's movements. Through accurate and balanced information, the book aims at offsetting common stereotypes. Both editions have had excellent reviews; the new edition received the 2003 award for outstanding nonfiction by the Middle East Outreach Council and was selected by VOYA for its 2003 Nonfiction Honor List.

THE BYZANTINE EMPIRE
(Cultures of the Past, Marshall Cavendish, 2002)

Following the decline of the great Roman Empire, the Byzantines led the Christian world in the East. They withstood continuous attack during their empire's 1000-year history, and from their fabulous capital at Constantinople, they produced a culture of great wealth and artistic creation. Like all the books in this series, beautifully illustrated.

THE PHOENICIANS
(Cultures of the Past, Marshall Cavendish, 2001)

The wealthy city-states of the Phoenicians dominated the Mediterranean world in their days of glory (around 1000-600 BC). But what were these mysterious people--and the famous Phoenician colony, Carthage--really like?

THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS
(Cultures of the Past, Marshall Cavendish, 1996)

Why were the ancient Egyptians apparently so obsessed with death? Were the Great Pyramids really built by "slave labor"--or did the pharaohs have other ways to motivate their people? This book explains Egyptian religious beliefs and how those ideas took shape in a culture that never ceases to fascinate.

LEBANON: NEW LIGHT IN AN ANCIENT LAND
(Macmillan, 1994)

An introduction to an age-old land, small but rich in history, with a vibrant society today--and wonderful mountain scenery.

THE LEBANESE IN AMERICA
(Lerner, 1987)

Like the Phoenicians long ago, the Lebanese have emigrated to countries all over the world. In America they made the "American dream" come true; their accomplishments and renown far surpass their small numbers.

MYSTERIES IN AMERICAN ARCHEOLOGY
(Walker, 1986)

You don't have to go to the sands of Egypt, or the ancient standing stones of Europe, or forgotten temples in Asian jungles.... We have many intriguing archaeological mysteries here in this "new" country.

Stories in young-adult collections


"Lines of Scrimmage"
A Palestinian-American boy thinks his dreams have come true when he gets to quarterback his high school football team. But he soon finds that he must confront discrimination and overcome fear--in an astonishing way. In FIRST CROSSING AND OTHER STORIES OF IMMIGRANT TEENS (edited by Donald Gallo, Candlewick, 2004).

"Scenes in a Roman Theatre"
A Tunisian teenager, who sells hats to tourists at Roman ruins but longs to "see the world" and make money, meets an artist and finds that he has something in common with her. In MEMORIES OF SUN: STORIES OF AFRICA AND AMERICA (edited by Jane Kurtz, Greenwillow, 2004).

"The Olive Grove"
A Muslim boy, caught up in the ongoing struggle between Palestinians and the Israeli army, finds there is more than one way to fight for one's rights and beliefs; in SOUL SEARCHING: THIRTEEN STORIES ABOUT FAITH AND BELIEF, edited by Lisa Rowe Fraustino (Simon & Schuster, 2002).

"Rima's Song"
A story about an Arab-American girl and a young man haunted by his violent past; in JOIN IN: MULTIETHNIC SHORT STORIES, edited by Donald Gallo (Delacorte, 1993).

"Anubis"
A ghost story set on a historic boat on the Nile; in SHORT CIRCUITS: THIRTEEN SHOCKING STORIES BY OUTSTANDING WRITERS FOR YOUNG ADULTS, edited by Donald Gallo (Delacorte, 1992).

A note on availability: My newest books, including SANTA CLAUS IN BAGHDAD AND OTHER STORIES...., are readily available. Others can be found online at such sources as www.abebooks.com, www.powells.com, www.allbookstores.com, and of course, www.amazon.com. Or you may contact me directly, at elsa.marston@​gmail.com. I'd be happy to hear from you.


Now a few more words about what I do. . . .


My stories and articles for young people have appeared in magazines such as CRICKET and HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN for many years. Some are about the Middle East, others about such topics as Meteor Crater, underwater archaeology in the Caribbean, and archaeoastronomy (ancient ways of observing the heavens). ASK magazine published my articles on the search for Cleopatra's palace in the harbor of Alexandria, Egypt (2003); and on ideas about how the Great Pyramids of Egypt were built (2006).

A story about war and reconciliation in Lebanon, "The Olive Tree" was a winner of the HIGHLIGHTS fiction contest in 1992, and also received the short story award from the International Reading Association in 1994. This story has been reprinted several times, and is included in a reader for school children in India, published in 2010 by an innovative new company called Idiscoveri, which aims to "revolutionize educational delivery in India."

One of my main ongoing activities is articles and talks about children's literature concerning the Middle East. Most recent articles: "The Arab world in children's books: Finding Palestine" and "A chat with Ibtisam Barakat" in BOOKBIRD (January 2010); and "Palestinians in Fiction for Young People" in WASAFIRI: THE MAGAZINE OF INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY WRITING (London, December 2009). Other essays and reviews have appeared in, for instance, THE HORN BOOK (November/​December 2004): "A Window in the Wall: Palestinians in Children's Literature." Another,"The Arab/​Muslim World: How It Looks in Books for American Children," appeared online at The Looking Glass: An Online Children's Literature Journal (www.the-looking-glass.net), April 2004 issue; and an essay was published in THE NEW PRESS GUIDE TO MULTICULTURAL RESOURCES FOR YOUNG READERS (1997).

My reviews of books about the Middle East, Muslims in the U.S., and Islam, for both adults and young readers, appeared regularly in MULTICULTURAL REVIEW, until 2012 when the journal regrettably ceased publication.