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... read more

“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)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2000

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