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Speakers Bureau Page

Karen Leggett Abouraya

I grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, surrounded by writing and books: my father was a journalist and my mother is a retired school librarian. For many years, I broadcast news on ABC Radio WMAL in Washington, D.C., where I began reviewing and discussing children’s books. I also reviewed children’s books and interviewed authors for the New York Times, the Baltimore Sun, Children’s Literature, Washington Parent and others. Now, in addition to writing books for children, I write about protecting wildlife and their habitats for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (National Wildlife Refuge System).

I graduated from Brown University, where I studied international relations.  I once worked in Paris, France and traveled with a backpack through Indonesia, but then I met my Egyptian husband right in Washington, D.C. We have two adult children and have been lucky enough to visit Egypt many times – especially Alexandria, my husband’s hometown. Now my husband and I are the leaders of a group called Friends of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Maryland, D.C., Virginia), which supports the Children’s Library in Alexandria, Egypt.

When my good friend, children’s book author and illustrator Susan Roth, visited the great library in Alexandria – called the Bibliotheca Alexandrina – she came home convinced we had to write a book about the library right away. That was in 2009. In 2012, my first children’s book – and Susan’s 40th (maybe more) – was published: Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books. I find it very exciting to share modern Egypt with young readers through my book and my conversations with students. Reading is such a wonderful way to learn about what’s important in other people’s lives and figure out what we want to be important in our own lives.

My Books

Malala Yousafzai: Warrior With Words

Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words
Illustrated by L.C. Wheatley
Published by StarWalk KidsMedia, 2014
eBook, paperback
Ages 8 - 12

2015 California Reading Association Eureka! Silver Award


“…her words and her storytelling are clear and moving, revealing a real talent for understanding young audiences. Instead of introducing or explaining the Taliban within the body of the story, for example, she leaves it in a longer endnote, so that the main narrative can focus on Malala herself. “

Africa to America:

"This inspiring story about real-life heroine Malala Yousafzai is beautiful. The story details her life in Pakistan and her ongoing passion about providing education for everyone. While it does include the part of her life when she is shot by the Taliban for attending school, it does a great job of relaying that part of the story without introducing fear to kids. The emphasis on the book is hope and education. The end of the book includes information about Pakistan and the Malala Fund. I truly can’t recommend this book strongly enough."

Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books

Hands Around the Library (Arabic)

Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books
Illustrated by Susan L. Roth
Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012
Ages 8 – 12

*Kirkus starred review:

"Freedom and libraries: an essential combination...A stunning visual recreation of a recent historical event."

All Reviews


  • 2013 Middle East Outreach Council Children’s Book Award
  • 2013 Arab American Book Award
  • 2013 Notable Social Studies Trade Books
  • 2013 Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books
  • 2013 Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) Choices
  • 2013 Notable Books for a Global Society - International Reading Association
  • 2013 National Council of Teachers of English Orbis Pictus Nonfiction Recommended Book
  • 2013 Best Books for Young Children - Children's Africana Book Awards Committee
Handsaroundthelibrary.com includes resources, activities and ideas for teachers and students; photo galleries of large and tiny libraries all around the world; background about the Bibliotheca Alexandrina; and a blog about Egypt, libraries and much more.

For information about author visits, see my Speakers Bureau page.



Author Visits

Book Trailers