Biography From Ancient Civilizations Book Reviews

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Booklist, February 2010

On The Life and Times of Attila the Hun

Aimed at the "not-so-enthusiastic-reader," titles in the Biography from Ancient Civilizations introduce their subjects with lively narratives filled with anecdotes and quotes about the profiled historical figures that spark studentsí curiosity. The Life and Times of Attila the Hun, for example, includes an account of the legendary barbarian as a gracious host who eschewed ostentatious shows of wealth in his personal style. In describing dramatic scenes, Rice occasionally takes some liberties with unsourced details. In The Life and Times of Clovis, King of the Franks, Rice provides no reference for a moment in which Clovis "showed no outward sign of emotion but a wound began to fester in his heart". Still, the well-integrated specifics create engaging portraits of world-changing leaders and their times. The Life and Times of Eleanor of Aquitaine clearly demonstrates the queen's groundbreaking fight to elevate women's place in society, as well as her influence on culture and the evolution of court life. A few blurry artists renderings crop up in each title, but for the most part, the numerous visuals, including maps, reproductions from illuminated manuscripts, and photos of artifacts, such as weaponry, will draw students into the compelling stories. A personal chronology, a time line setting each life in context, chapter notes for direct quotes, a glossary, and suggestions for further reading complete these titles that seek to generate high interest in ancient history.

Lane Education Service, December 2008

On The Life and Times of Buddha

This hard-cover text on Buddha distills a complex and subtle philosophy into terms young readers can approach. Gedney gracefully deals with the ambiguity between the truth and mythology of the Buddha's life without degrading the dignity of his teachings. The book begins with an engaging narrative of Buddha's search for enlightenment, identifies the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path (Buddhism's key doctrines), and follows changes in Buddhist practices from Buddha's time to ours. The FYI section at the end of each short chapter broadens the reader's understanding with brief forays into such topics as contemporaneous philosophies, ancient medicine, etc. Color photos bring immediacy to a text augmented by a chronology, time line, index, chapter notes, glossary, and a list of books recommended for further reading.

Lane Education Service, December 2008

On The Life and Times of Alexander the Great

This is the kind of biography that will fill in the interesting details after an outline of Alexander's life from some other source. The five chapters all tell stories connected to significant periods in Alexander's life. The length of the book makes it very useful given the research schedule for most assignments. Single FYI page designed to provide content related to the events being described also accompany each chapter. There is also a single page chronology, historical timeline, glossary and related reading and Internet connections.

Lane Education Service, January 2008

On The Life and Times of Confucius

This is part of the Ancient Civilization series. Five short chapters tell the life of Confucius. In each chapter is a single page FYI that explains some aspect of Chinese history or culture. A chronology of his life and a historical timeline which places the time of Confucius in context with other important events in world history are also included. The bibliography and chapter notes refer to Internet sites which are not necessarily verifiable or still in existence. The photographs included will inspire further research as will this easily accessible text.

School Library Journal, May 2006

On The Life and Times of King Arthur: The Evolution of a Legend

Any biography of King Arthur is going to have the inherent problem of distinguishing fact from fiction, which this book tries valiantly to do. The authors first explore the idea that the Arthurian legends may have been stories told about an Arthur who was the warrior son of a Roman soldier who adopted Britain as his home sometime during the fifth century. They then make the argument that Arthur's success in defending the Britons against invaders led to the "Golden Age of Britain," and that over time, the stories evolved from a way to intimidate warring factions into the more modern, romantic retellings that we know today. The authors do not just comment on the retellings, but they do try to place their evolution into historical context. Full-color reproductions and illustrations are scattered throughout. Report writers who need an overview of the man versus the legend will find this an accessible introduction.

School Library Journal, September 2005

On The Life and Times of Buddha and The Life and Times of Moses

Each of these titles offers a fluid and lively retelling of the basic story, including insight into the broader context of the times, an introduction to the teachings of each figure, and a recounting of the "facts" that most believers would assent to. In the case of the Buddha, many American youngsters will have little to no background knowledge and thus Gedney's unified retelling provides a sound place to begin. Both books feature five short chapters, each of which is followed by a one-page "FYInfo" essay about related issues. Illustrations are colorful, with captions that add to the text. Both are attractive and inviting.

VOYA, August 2005

On The Life and Times of Alexander the Great and The Life and Times of Socrates

Focusing on ancient personages, these appealing thumbnail introductions feature many colored pictures and single-page FYI sections. The Alexander the Great FYI entries explain Plutarch, ancestry of the gods, medical practices, Alexandria, and the enduring resistance presented by Afghanistan. The Socrates volume elaborates on the Delphic Oracle, the Persian Wars, Pericles, Sparta, and the Parthenon. A personal chronology in tandem with a historical time line places each subject in historical context. Alexander focuses on the leader's military genius even in his teens and the backing that he received from a fiercely protective, powerful mother who employed intrigue and cult worship. Socrates presents more of the philosopher's personal life and explains the practice of Greeks taking younger men rather than women, as lovers.

These two books, as well as the volumes on Homer and Archimedes, provide engaging anecdotes. The series is probably most helpful for class assignments, but it might stir the curiosity of students interested in ancient times.

The Horn Book Guide, January-June 2005

On The Life and Times of Confucius and The Life and Times of Marco Polo

Both of these well-written books do a good job of introducing their subjects to upper-elementary or middle-school students.The chapter notes and bibliographies attest to careful research. Maps and informative sidebars are included.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District, May 2005

On The Life and Times of Homer

This book brings the poet, Homer, to a level young people can understand while still being thorough, informative, and entertaining. Excellent illustrations, interesting sidebars, and useful appendices bring Homer and his times to life. This book would work especially well for students who have seen the movie Troy and want more information.

The Horn Book Guide, Spring 2005

On The Life and Times of Alexander the Great, The Life and Times of Homer, The Life and Times of Archimedes, The Life and Times of Socrates

After introducing each of these important figures in ancient civilization with a story or legend, the authors then provide upper-elementary or middle-school students with a lively picture of the known life of the individual based on records from their times. Sidebars and archival art extend the information.

South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative, Spring 2005

On The Life and Times of Socrates

The narrative telling in part of the book makes for an interesting account of his life and helps create a real feel for his unique philosophies and gifts. Solid resource for students.

School Library Journal, December 2004

On The Life and Times of Homer, Socrates, and Archimedes

These books fill a gap in resources about the ancient world for this audience. The authors use popular anecdotes from the lives of the ancients and facts about their culture to introduce their subjects' important contributions. FYI sections detail engaging elements of the ancient Greek world, such as fashion, astronomy, and the Library of Alexandria. Full-color photos, reproductions, and illustrations appear throughout. Homer is the most informative and well written, with a comprehensive works cited and resources page. A useful addition to ancient history collections.

Booklist, October 2004

On The Life and Times of Alexander the Greatand The Life and Times of Homer

Each book in the Biography From Ancient Civilizations series offers a brief, fairly fast-moving account of the subject. Because so little is known of Homer's life, Tracy's book relies on legends from ancient sources. More documented is the life of Alexander the Great, and Bankston makes an effort to name the sources of some of the familiar stories about the world conqueror. Most of the illustrations in both books are reproductions of paintings or engravings from the Baroque period or from Roman wall paintings. Each book concludes with a timeline, chapter notes, a chronology, a short glossary, and a bibliography including web-sites. Students will appreciate the brevity of each of these biographies.