by Neil Waldman

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Boyds Mills Press publishes a wide range of high-quality fiction and nonfiction picture books, chapter books, novels, and nonfiction


Boyds Mills Press publishes a wide range of high-quality fiction and nonfiction picture books, chapter books, novels, and nonfiction

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Waldman (The Golden City) returns to Israel for this tribute to the legendary citadel, encompassing over 2000 years of history. A towering fortress built on a rock plateau in what is now the Negev desert, Masada was the last remaining Jewish stronghold in the Holy Land until it fell to the Romans in 73 C.E. In a frankly partisan approach, the author traces the history of Masada, built by Herod in the first century B.C.E., to the Masada Archaeological Expedition of 1963. Waldman is most compelling when he recreates pivotal scenes in detail, such as the last stand of the Zealots as they attempt to ward off the Romans from Masada. Unfortunately, readers may find much of the history confusing, as important figures are mentioned offhandedly (for example, six brief paragraphs cover Josephus Flavius; yet Flavius, a Jewish leader who joined the Romans, is later cited as the author of the pivotal account that led to the rediscovery of Masada in the 19th century), and obvious omissions may prove troubling to readers (e.g., in the opening chapter, set in Jerusalem in 66 C.E., hundreds of persecuted Jews hang from wooden crosses, yet there is not even a passing reference to Christ and his followers). The most vexing gap occurs when the text mentions "Israel's greatest archaeologist, Yigael Yadin," in a chapter set in 1838, then leaps ahead to Yadin's expedition in 1963. More successful is Waldman's use of halftone paintings, which effectively convey a feeling of antiquity as well as the austerity and drama of the desert landscape. While this history may pique readers' interest in the controversial fortress, they may well walk away from this book with more questions than answers. Ages 10-up. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Christopher Moning
Site of one of the most dramatic war stories of all time, the plateau called Masada rises like a giant table in the desert to the west of the Dead Sea. Two thousand years ago, Masada served as the final refuge for 960 Jewish people as they fled the arrows and swords of the mighty Roman Empire. For five years the determined Zealots held off thousands of Roman soldiers who tried in vain to scale the sheer cliffs that make Masada a perfect natural citadel. Then, in the year 73 CE, the Roman general Titus directed his Jewish slaves to construct a huge ramp onto which a battering ram was positioned. The refugees were doomed. Early next morning, as the Centurions marched into the splendid city, all was eerily quiet. Rather than subject themselves and their families to Roman tyranny, The Jewish people of Masada had chosen to take their own lives. Neil Waldman relates this shocking true story in compelling and adept fashion. His nicely rendered maps and illustrations will significantly aid the young reader's comprehension. Wisely, Waldman also tells about the archaeological expeditions that uncovered many fascinating artifacts that documented events that had for centuries been largely forgotten. The ancient vow is repeated even today: "Masada shall not fall again!" A time line, glossary, and index are included as well.
Children's Literature
The dramatic story of the city of Masada has been passed down through Jewish folklore for nearly two thousand years. Josephus Flavius, an ancient historian, had recorded this tale of tragedy, but it was not widely accepted as an actual historical event until relatively recently. Two American scholars located the site in 1838, but excavation did not begin in earnest until 1963. Results of the excavation supported Flavius's account and Masada has become symbol of Jewish bravery and commitment. Waldman begins his story with an explanation of Herod's extreme paranoia that caused him to build castle fortresses for protection. One of these was Masada located on a high plateau near the Dead Sea. It was constructed about 30 years before Jesus was born. The Roman Empire still covered all of the area around the Mediterranean Sea in the year 66. At that time there were many Jewish uprisings. All were quickly squelched, except for the fortress at Masada. When the Roman armies came five years later, the people were ready for them and rolled large boulders down the steep cliffs. Many Roman soldiers were killed, but Commander Silva was prepared with assault towers and battering rams. As the walls fell, the Jewish people took their own lives. Husbands killed their wives and children. The men then drew lots as they killed each other. It was a hollow victory for the Romans as they ascended into the city and found all were dead. In modern times, many people visit Masada to honor those ancient people and find inspiration for their own lives. Waldman's black and white illustrations are based on relics, sculptures, and photographs. 2003, Boyds Mills Press,
— Phyllis Kennemer
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Built by King Herod during the first century B.C.E. as a stronghold to protect himself and his followers from the Romans, the fortress of Masada still stands on top of a steep plateau in the Judean wilderness. Waldman has written a concise account of the escape to Masada of a group of Jewish Zealots and of their valiant stand against the massive, well-equipped Roman legions of the emperor Vespasian. The standoff ended in 71 C.E. when the Roman army forced slaves to build a huge ramp of earth and rocks, pulled an enormous assault tower into position, and overpowered the last remnant of Jewish civilization in the Middle East. The narrative is based on the detailed firsthand account recorded by Josephus Flavius, a young Jewish leader who swore allegiance to the Romans in order to stay alive. Waldman dramatizes the story by adding dialogue-a tactic that gives a fictional quality to the otherwise carefully researched text. Descriptions of the rediscovery and excavation of the site are also included. Dramatic illustrations and two large maps, all in charcoal shades of acrylic and india ink, show realistic scenes, many of them painted from photos, relief sculptures, and artifacts found during the excavation of Masada. This is the only available account for young people of the Roman wars against the Jews of Jerusalem and Masada.-Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH

Product Details

Highlights Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
8.60(w) x 9.50(h) x 0.30(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Neil Waldman has written and illustrated more than fifty books. He is the recipient of the Christopher Award and the National Jewish Book Award. He lives in White Plains, New York.

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