The House of Wisdom

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Overview

Timely and timeless -- this illuminating, luminous picture book brings ancient Baghdad to life as it tells the story of one boy's discovery of the power of the written word. This is the 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 ...
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1999 Hardcover First edition. Illustrated. 1st stated New in New jacket 0789425629 New in new dust jacket. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 48 p. Contains: Illustrations. ... Audience: Children/juvenile. Read more Show Less

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Overview

Timely and timeless -- this illuminating, luminous picture book brings ancient Baghdad to life as it tells the story of one boy's discovery of the power of the written word. This is the 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 sucvh 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.

Ishaq, the son of the chief translator to the Caliph of ancient Baghdad, travels the world in search of precious books and manuscripts and brings them back to the great library known as the House of Wisdom.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The inspiration for Heide and Gilliland's (Sami and the Time of Troubles; The Day of Ahmed's Secret) ambitious tale is the landmark learning institution built in Baghdad in 830 A.D. by the Caliph al-Ma'mun. Told from the persepective of a boy, Ishaq, who lives in the House of Wisdom with his scholar father, the narrative transports readers to the Islamic Empire, at a time of dramatic academic and cultural growth. Ishaq aspires to the scholarly heights of his father, but finds his studies slow-going, unlike the sports he enjoys--"Then the time flew!" He simply does not share his father's "fire" for learning. But when the Caliph one day chooses Ishaq to lead an expedition in search of ancient manuscripts, Ishaq discovers for himself the truth of his father's words--that the scholars of history are "like the leaves of the same tree, separated by many autumns." The book's lofty subject and weighty text may make it best suited to those who have already been exposed to history's great thinkers, but all readers can appreciate the authentic feeling of the time and setting. Ishaq's character remains intangible, but the House of Wisdom's contribution to modern civilization comes through loudly and clearly. Grandpr 's (Chin Yu Min and the Ginger Cat) lushly colored pastels detail the ornate patterns of the Baghdad rooftops as easily as they convey the sweltering heat of a caravan of camels. A fitting homage to the quest for knowledge. Ages 4-7. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-During the Dark Ages of Europe, the ruler of Baghdad built the House of Wisdom, a vast library to house a collection of books from around the world as well as a center for scholars. The authors tell the story of Ishaq, the son of an accomplished translator. Though a student himself, Ishaq doesn't "feel the fire" of reading and knowledge until he satisfies his restless dream to travel the world on an expedition to acquire books for the great library. On his return, he grows to recognize the enduring qualities of scholastic endeavors and to find the spark in his own spirit that enables him to become the chief translator of the works of Aristotle. That's a tall order for a picture book, and the writing team uses more poetry than detail to suggest the young man's experiences. When the youth questions his father about the wisdom of those who lived 1000 years before them, he is told, "We are like leaves of the same tree, separated by many autumns." Youngsters may have difficulty connecting with Ishaq on their own, but an insightful adult could use this book to engender an appreciation for the contributions of Islamic culture to all civilizations and for the fruits of human curiosity. GrandPr 's pastel illustrations are both lush and dreamy. Making ample use of Islamic patterns and employing radiant colors, the artist welcomes readers into this story about the heights of human achievement.-Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Heide and Gilliland (Sami and the Time of the Troubles, 1992, etc.) bring to readers Baghdad of the ninth century, a time and a place that sought wisdom and encouraged learning to the point of incandescence. The story concerns Ishaq, the son of Hunayn, one of the scholars of Caliph al-Ma'mun's grand House of Wisdom; it harbored both learned men and the great books of history, brought there by caravans that ranged throughout the known world. Ishaq is fascinated by his father's passion for the ancient books, but he doesn't share the fire for learning. He dreams of leading a caravan and when he gets his opportunity, travels for three years, returning to Baghdad with a great collection of books, including a lost manuscript of Aristotle's. This last excites Ishaq in a way he had never experienced, and he, too, decides to become a scholar in the House of Wisdom. Heide and Gilliland become almost mystical about the pleasures of learning, while GrandPré's fanciful, exotic artwork, with high domed ceilings and ornately patterned walls and floors, give books a sacred residence. That the three main characters were real gives the story its weight; it's an idyllic moment in history, with the architectural splendors of old Baghdad providing just the right setting. (Picture book. 4-7)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780789425621
  • Publisher: DK Publishing, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/15/1999
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 48
  • Age range: 8 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 11.82 (h) x 0.37 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2001

    JOURNEY OF A LIFETIME

    This is the best book I've read in quite a while. I used it to prepare for teaching a summer enrichment course to 4th grade students. Not only does it appeal to them, but to adults as well. Nothing is more powerful than the search for WISDOM!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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