A ho-hum outing next to James Rumford’s first-class Traveling Man (2001).

THE AMAZING TRAVELS OF IBN BATTUTA

A first-person précis of the journeys taken by the Muslim world’s greatest traveler.

Originally published in Arabic, Sharafeddine’s recast tale takes the 14th-century Ibn Battuta on a long, looping course from his home in Tangier to India, then on to China and back for visits to Grenada and Mali. Aside from the occasional storm or hyena attack, however, “his” narrative is a wearying recitation of place names hooked to vague details—“Cairo impressed me with its mosques and hospitals”—and repeated mentions of visits to local “theologians and legal scholars.” Furthermore, dates in the narrative are taken from the Christian calendar only, and the prose is sometimes inexpertly phrased: “I hired a camel to continue my journey”; “After ten years, he made me the ambassador of India in China.” The illustrations, done in a style reminiscent of Persian miniatures, feature large-eyed figures in period dress and evocative glimpses of grand architecture. These scenes are, however, integrated into maps that are so stylized that it’s seldom possible to get a clear picture of where the lands and cities are. The abrupt ending leaves readers who want to know more about Ibn Battuta to their own devices.

A ho-hum outing next to James Rumford’s first-class Traveling Man (2001). (Picture book/biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55498-480-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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Despite awkwardness, this is a welcome window into an important American life

MARY WALKER WEARS THE PANTS

Pants: Women were not supposed to wear them.

Mary Walker not only got her medical degree in 1855, but found it much easier to do her work dressed smartly in men’s trousers and tailored jacket. She was not accepted in the Union Army at first, but as an unpaid hospital volunteer, she tended the Civil War sick and wounded in Washington, D.C., and field hospitals. She was finally commissioned in late 1863, then captured and imprisoned by the Confederates. She was exchanged for a Confederate officer, and in 1866, she was given the Medal of Honor, the first and only woman to receive it. Harness tries valiantly to work this complicated story into one comprehensible for the early grades, but it makes for some difficult phrasing. Calling her, as some did, a “pesky camp follower” has very negative implications that adults, at least, will get. “Many Americans, especially in the South, firmly believed that enslaving people from Africa was a normal thing to do,” is an awkward encapsulation of the reason for the Civil War. Molinari’s images are richly colored and drawn in an old-fashioned but very compatible style and do a lot toward fleshing out the text.

Despite awkwardness, this is a welcome window into an important American life . (Picture book/biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8075-4990-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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