Aslan reworks his illuminating and readable No God but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam (2006) for a slightly younger audience with mixed success. The early chapters lay a strong foundation for understanding Islam’s essential tenets and character. The author describes the early Arabic cultural and religious milieu, separates (scanty) fact from legend in tracing Muhammad’s life and shows how Islam developed from a strong call for social and economic reform to a “revolutionary experiment” that profoundly and successfully challenged established traditions in every area of Arab society and government. Following that, though, the narrative fragments into a series of informative but less cogent essays on narrower topics, including the power struggle among Muhammad’s successors, the true meaning of “jihad” (no, not “Holy War”), the strong links between Islam and Judaism and the status of women in Islam. Nonetheless, the author offers a rare and lucid vision of early Islam from the inside, capped with a heartening (for many Westerners) contention that modern Muslim radicalism isn’t on the rise but actually in its dying throes. (source list) (Nonfiction. YA, adult)


Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-73975-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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An amuse-bouche of world mythology that may leave readers craving more.


Myths and legends communicate key values and beliefs within a society, though the stories may share many similarities across time and culture.

In this brief compendium, Nardo examines common themes across mythologies pulled from around the globe. The famous mythologist Joseph Campbell and contemporary expert E.J. Michael Witzel claim that myths the world over share common themes, values, and tropes because of a shared heritage of storytelling that dates back to the earliest humans. These tales often involve powerful and wise creator deities as well as heroic humans, and each communicates something of the values and traditions of each culture to the listener or reader. This title serves as a cursory primer of several major mythical traditions from around the world. Through each retelling and subsequent background exposition, readers discover particulars about the cultures from which each myth sprang but also their many similarities. Classical historian Nardo begins with the Greco-Roman and Norse mythological traditions that Western readers are most likely already familiar with before expanding to Hindu, Chinese, Aztec, and Igbo mythical traditions. Though a great primer for reluctant readers and those looking for a brief overview and laudable for its inclusion of non-Western traditions, readers hoping for a deeper dive will need to look elsewhere. Ample illustrations add interest and support the text.

An amuse-bouche of world mythology that may leave readers craving more. (source notes, further reading, index, picture credits) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-6782-0082-4

Page Count: 64

Publisher: ReferencePoint Press

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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For the 128 pages of this graphic novel, though, readers can pretend this is an awfully big adventure, and they’ll keep...


One almost never hears the sentence, “I’m reading a Holocaust book for fun,” but parts of this memoir of French Jews fleeing the Occupation read like an adventure story.

No one would describe this book as a thriller, but it has false identities and escapes through the forest in the dark of night. Ten-year-old Joseph even looks a bit like Tintin, with his skinny frame and blond hair. For a brief portion of the war, he spends his days eating pastries and watching the same movie over and over again. (Bailly’s pictures of the free zone in Marseille are gorgeous.) But the memoir is always a moment away from tragedy. In real life, Joseph Joffo’s father died in a concentration camp, and the last image in the story highlights his framed, sepia-toned photo. A few scenes are deeply poignant. Early in the book, Joseph is told to deny his Jewish identity, and he asks, “What is…a Jew?” His father says, “Well, it’s kind of embarrassing, but…I don’t really know.” At the time, Joffo probably didn’t think he was living an adventure story. He had to flee from one zone of France to another, hoping he wouldn’t be caught by the Nazis.

For the 128 pages of this graphic novel, though, readers can pretend this is an awfully big adventure, and they’ll keep flipping pages, hoping it doesn’t turn into another story altogether. (Graphic memoir. 11-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4677-1516-4

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Graphic Universe

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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