for The House of Wisdom
by Florence Parry Heide, Judith Heide Gilliland, and Mary GrandPre
“From time to time, as the world turns, something different happens...a kind of brightening...No one knows why it starts, or why it ends, but the echoes of it last and last. A brightening like this happened a thousand years ago in Baghdad.” Although Western history typically names these centuries as the Dark Ages, a highly advanced culture flourished in Baghdad and throughout much of the Arabic-speaking Islamic Empire. At the time of this well-researched story, the ruler of Baghdad built a great library to hold the books brought with other treasures to Baghdad.. The story features Ishaq, the son of a renowned translator in the “enormous edifice serving as a learning institution, library and translation bureau.” His father tells Ishaq that although the boy might not understand the languages of people he sees in Baghdad’s marketplace, “that does not mean they have nothing to say.” After Ishaq travels widely and reads what Aristotle wrote a thousand years earlier, he determines he will become one of the links to “someone from another land, speaking another language...searching as I am.” Illustrated by GrandPré’s paintings created with pastel to suggest the palette and patterns of Islamic images and followed by a reliable bibliography, this story moves Ishaq’s dream one step toward possibility. (Ages 9-12)
CCBC Choices 2000. © Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2000. Used with permission.
This is the true story of Ishaq, a young boy in ninth-century Baghdad. And it is the story of the House of Wisdom. More than a house, more than a library, more even than a palace, the House of Wisdom was at the very center of the new ideas that flourished in Baghdad. It was here that thousands of scholars gathered to read, to exchange ideas, and to translate the dusty manuscripts that were brought by camel and ship from all over the world. Ishaq cannot understand why ancient words, words from faraway places, can cause such excitement. Then he embarks on a difficult journey seeking lost manuscripts. But it is what he discovers when he returns that ignites his imagination and changes him forever.
Lyrical prose and glorious illustrations capture the splendor of Baghdad when it was the center of one of the world's great civilizations. They tell the story of Ishaq's transformation from a bewildered young boy searching for understanding to a brilliant scholar, the greatest translator of Aristotle, whose work preserved Greek thought for civilizations to come.
Publisher description retrieved from Google Books.