The Genius of Islam: How Muslims Made the Modern World


The Middle Ages were a period of tremendous cultural and scientific advancement in the Islamic Empire—ideas and inventions that shaped our world. 
Did you know that:
• The numbers you use every day (Arabic numerals!) are a Muslim invention?
• The marching band you hear at football games has its roots ...

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The Genius of Islam: How Muslims Made the Modern World

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The Middle Ages were a period of tremendous cultural and scientific advancement in the Islamic Empire—ideas and inventions that shaped our world. 
Did you know that:
• The numbers you use every day (Arabic numerals!) are a Muslim invention?
• The marching band you hear at football games has its roots in the Middle East?
• You are drinking orange juice at breakfast today thanks to Islamic farming innovations?
• The modern city's skyline was made possible by Islamic architecture?

The Muslim world has often been a bridge between East and West, but many of Islam's crucial innovations are hidden within the folds of history. In this important book, Bryn Barnard uses short, engaging text and gorgeous full-color artwork to bring Islam's contributions gloriously to life.  Chockful of information and pictures, and eminently browsable, The Genius of Islam is the definitive guide to a fascinating topic.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"The books we read, the music we play, the words we speak... all were shaped, at least in part, by Islam," writes Barnard in this concise and eloquent exploration of the far-reaching influence of Islam over the centuries. Each spread is devoted to a different subject (writing, Arabic numerals, architecture, astronomy, agriculture), while captioned spot art homes in on specific inventions and innovations (the zither, the astrolabe, advanced medical knowledge). Though the focus is on Islam's manifold cultural contributions, Barnard closes with a chilling reminder of the ways in which 16th-century Europeans, led by Petrarch, worked to claim such advancements as their own and obscure their origins. Ages 8–12. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Elisabeth Greenberg
In the first chapter, New Beginnings, Barnard clearly states his thesis that from the seventh to the twelfth centuries CE, Islam "created one of the most innovative and influential civilizations on earth" through adoption and adaptation of technology. He then identifies specific advances to demonstrate how far Islam has reached into our current world's science and art. Barnard has a knack for clear writing and his two-page synopsis of the origins and development of Islam is concise and vivid. He also recognizes where Islam moved a technology forward, for example, when it mass produced hand-written books by having an entire group of scribes take dictation from a reader and when it failed to adopt an invention, as when the printing press was ignored because it was difficult to use with calligraphic Arabic. On the other hand he cites the mass production of paper through the use of water mills as a transition point for Islam, exchanging an oral for a scribal culture. Islam made great advances in mathematics, particularly in algebra and geometry, and refined the Hindu decimal system into the Arabic numerals and computation used throughout the western world today. This book is chockfull of two-page spreads, each highlighting areas of Islamic technological advance, and beautifully illustrated with examples, often drawing on art as well as science. Barnard notes the origins of each Islamic advance, for example, the idea of a hospital originated in Persia with the himaristan and was developed by Islamic scholars and administrators, and then made the leap from Islamic Cordoba to the rest of Europe. Unfortunately, he does not address a current topic: why this flowering of Islamic science in everything from optics to irrigation seems to have come to a screeching halt in the latter half of the second millennium. The cover with its camel piled high with examples of Muslim leaps in technology and art is sure to intrigue middle school students and attract them to this fascinating and beautiful book. The extensive bibliography offers many avenues for further study. Reviewer: Elisabeth Greenberg
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—The early Muslim world contributed much to society that Westerners now take for granted, including innovations in architecture, math, and music. Barnard devotes one spread to each area, explaining its impact on the modern world. The book closes with thoughtful commentary about the intentionality with which the West has "forgotten" the cultural and scientific impact of Islam. Colorful, captioned illustrations enhance the text, but there is no glossary or index and the chapter titles are not particularly descriptive. Maps on the endpapers illustrate the spread of Islam over time. The cover illustration depicts a camel carrying objects shown in the pages, which doesn't represent the "modern world" and unfortunately reinforces the misapprehension that Islam is a "third world" religion. The book itself seems intended to allay that perception. Because of its uniqueness, this volume is a worthwhile addition.—Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375840722
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 4/5/2011
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 298,817
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: NC1210L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.60 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

BRYN BARNARD is an author and illustrator whose previous books include Outbreak: Plagues that Changed History and Dangerous Planet: Natural Disasters that Changed History.  His artwork for Outbreak has been on display across the country, including at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C., and at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia.

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