THE GENIUS OF ISLAM by Bryn Barnard

THE GENIUS OF ISLAM

How Muslims Made the Modern World
by , illustrated by
Age Range: 11 - 13

KIRKUS REVIEW

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 5th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-375-84072-2
Page count: 40pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2011




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