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THE HOUSE OF WISDOM by Florence Parry Heide


by Florence Parry Heide & Judith Heide Gilliland

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-7894-2562-9
Publisher: DK Publishing

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 GrandPrÇ’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)