THE GENIUS OF ISLAM

HOW MUSLIMS MADE THE MODERN WORLD

Barnard’s brave effort to cram such an immense subject into 40 pages leads to some debatable claims. He opens with a sweeping history of Muslim expansion (“Early Muslims knew they had a lot of catching up to do to equal or surpass the great civilizations that preceded and surrounded them”) and continues generalizing throughout (“Until the twentieth century, most buildings in most cities owed much of their look to Islam”). Single-topic spreads cover the development of Arabic calligraphy and the mass production of paper, revolutions in mathematics and medicine, artistic and architectural motifs, astronomy and navigation, plus the importation of new foodstuffs, ideas (e.g., marching bands, hospitals) and technology to the West. The array of street scenes, portraits, maps, still-lifes and diagrams add visual appeal but sometimes fall into irrelevancy. Labored stylistic tics stale (the Caliph’s pigeon post was “the email of the day,” the astrolabe was “the GPS device of its day,” the translation of Classical texts was “the Human Genome Project of its day”). The author winds down with a discussion of how the dismissive attitude of Renaissance “Petrarchists” led to a general loss of appreciation for Muslim culture and scholarship, then finishes abruptly with a page of adult-level “Further Reading.” Enthusiastic, yes; judicious and well-organized, not so much. (Nonfiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-375-84072-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

THE CIVIL WAR AT SEA

In this companion to Portraits of War: Civil War Photographers and Their Work (1998), Sullivan presents an album of the prominent ships and men who fought on both sides, matched to an engrossing account of the war's progress: at sea, on the Mississippi, and along the South's well-defended coastline. In his view, the issue never was in doubt, for though the Confederacy fought back with innovative ironclads, sleek blockade runners, well-armed commerce raiders, and sturdy fortifications, from the earliest stages the North was able to seal off, and then take, one major southern port after another. The photos, many of which were made from fragile glass plates whose survival seems near-miraculous, are drawn from private as well as public collections, and some have never been published before. There aren't any action shots, since mid-19th-century photography required very long exposure times, but the author compensates with contemporary prints, plus crisp battle accounts, lucid strategic overviews, and descriptions of the technological developments that, by war's end, gave this country a world-class navy. He also profiles the careers of Matthew Brady and several less well-known photographers, adding another level of interest to a multi-stranded survey. (source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7613-1553-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Millbrook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Trots in all the tropes except the cherry tree, but the rosy glow may not be misplaced considering his predecessor.

JOE BIDEN

A BIOGRAPHY FOR YOUNG READERS

A hagiographic portrait of the United States’ newest president-elect.

Gormley begins with Biden’s working-class origins, then retraces his development as a “natural leader” from roguish, family-centered senior class president to responsible and still family-centered national one. Focusing as she goes on values or character-revealing anecdotes and sound bites (including multiple early predictions that he would grow up to be president), she turns his father’s motto “if you get knocked down, get up” into a thematic mantra. Gormley portrays his career as a heroic march to the White House past both political challenges and wrenching personal tragedies. The author mixes frank accounts of the latter with heartwarming family stories like the time his sons, then 6 and 7, sat him down in 1976 and told him to marry Jill Jacobs. The author presents Biden’s early positions on, for instance, same-sex marriage or crime as either evolving or errors acknowledged in retrospect, dismisses allegations of sexual harassment, and frames his verbal gaffes as just foibles: “Obama was ‘the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.’ Oops. Joe Biden had spoken without thinking.” Side looks at relevant topics from trickle-down economics to the Electoral College inelegantly interrupt the text but serve to fill in some of the historical background, and the tactics and failures of the Trump administration, particularly to address the Covid-19 pandemic, get a good airing. The narrative ends the weekend after Election Day with an analysis of the challenges ahead. No illustrations or index were seen.

Trots in all the tropes except the cherry tree, but the rosy glow may not be misplaced considering his predecessor. (source notes) (Biography. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-7932-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more