In the days when the earth was flat and Jerusalem was the center of the world, there was a boy named Ibn Battuta." So begins this introduction to the journeys of this historically important but probably little-known, 14th-century Muslim figure. Born in Morocco and raised as a scholar, he began his 29 years of travel in 1325 when, "At twenty-one, he decided to go to Mecca as a pilgrim." He went on through Africa, across the steppes of Asia, into India and China, and back to Morocco where "he told his story to the Moroccan court secretary Ibn Juzayy, who wrote it down in Arabic." Rumford's simply written adaptation is often surprisingly eloquent. For example, Ibn Battuta comments on his voyage: "Traveling-it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller." "Traveling-it had captured my heart, and now my heart was calling me home." On each page, a portion of the text appears within its own bright white narrow road crossing elegantly bordered illustrations that shine with generous amounts of gold, red, and deep blue. This text also flows into and out of larger frames. The artist adorns many of these illustrations with Arabic and Chinese calligraphy, providing translations for the longer phrases at the end of the book. A few maps are included and they are executed with the same attention to presentation. A glossary of names, places, and important words provides essential information in an accessible format. Simply put, this is a beautifully crafted work that will undoubtedly spark interest and encourage further study.
- Alicia Eames, New York City Public Schools (Amazon.com)