CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 35. . . .May 9, 2014
Drawing upon the writings of the medieval Muslim traveler and scholar, Ibn Battuta (1325-1369), author Fatima Sharafeddine has traced his pilgrimage from Morocco to Mecca and throughout the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Africa. In all, he spent 29 years visiting these lands and learning about the cultures he encountered. He returned home to Morocco to write and work as a judge, sharing the perspectives and experiences he had gained from his explorations.
This book is the first of a series of biographies for young readers about historical Arab and Islamic figures. In this attractive picture book format, it brings what may be little known details of medieval times and ways to an audience that might not yet have encountered such stories. Methods of travel – camel, donkey, sailing ship – meant it took years to cover long distances. The few who traveled in these times faced dangers such as bandits, sandstorms, limited food and water, hyena attacks or the threat of disease. These challenges may seem extraordinary to modern kids used to airplanes, hotels and fast food stops. Ibn Battuta marveled at the universal welcomes he received, magnificent architecture, unfamiliar customs and generosity of his hosts. His experiences highlight the vast knowledge he gained and shared from devoting his life to exploration and observation in a climate of tolerance.
Written in first person, the account is involving and the language accessible. There is some repetition in the presentation style; there’s a list-like quality at times as the journey extends over so many years to numerous lands. This can probably be attributed to the apparent lack of a great deal of detail available in the research material. However, Sharafeddine has woven in specific descriptions of cities and buildings, and anecdotes of customs and difficulties encountered to arouse reader curiosity about various locations. And a map is included on the title pages to show the extent of the travels. The illustrator has continued to use the map outlines as a background throughout by picturing each city at its correct location to help keep the reader grounded in geography. Colors and border designs enhance the rich cultural experience.
This book, and others that may follow in the series, is a valuable introduction to a fascinating period of history.
Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer living in BC.
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