Tag Archives: Islamic Golden Age

Compass, Vol. 1: The Cauldron of Eternal Life by Robert MacKenzie & Dave Walker illustrated by Justin Greenwood 

Compass, Vol. 1: The Cauldron of Eternal Life by Robert MacKenzie & Dave Walker illustrated by Justin Greenwood 

compasscoverDo you ever find yourself in the middle of an amazing historical fiction fantasy adventure graphic novel, reading as fast as you can to find out what happens next, while simultaneously having absolutely no clue what is going on? Yeah, I am was confused often in this upper YA/Teen (16+) 136 page book set in Europe during the Islamic Golden Age and starring a female from the renown House of Wisdom.  I’m fairly positive it is my own limitations that made the book confusing, but for those wiser and more versed in graphic novels, I would recommend this book.  It has action, adventure, science, history, philosophy, a strong Muslim character, friendship, wisdom, ingenuity, a bibliography, Mongols, Druids, and a dragon.


Shahidah El-Amin is a Compass from the House of Wisdom, she is not a thief, she seeks knowledge which means that she is incredibly educated, fierce, and scrappy: part Indiana Jones, part Tomb Raider perhaps.  She is a hijab wearing, dua invoking, Qur’an quoting, don’t give me alcohol even as you are about to kill me, strong confident Muslim. 

The book opens with her finding an artifact and being betrayed by a fellow scholar and friend, Ling Hua, a Chinese scholar.  The two race to Wales to get to the possibly rumored Calderon of Eternal Life for different reasons and using different methods.  Along the way Shahidah shows her skills in surviving, understanding what her priorities are, and learning about friendship.  She will battle Master Hua, the Khan, a dragon, a bear, the Druids, a leper just to name a few as the fantasy world is developed and built up with historical accuracies thrown in.



I love that the lead is a fierce female Abbasid Muslim from Baghdad and that there are a variety of religions and cultures mentioned and depicted.  It refers to Shahidah as an Arab witch by the enemy and calls Muslims “Mohammedans” which takes a bit of getting used to and I never got comfortable with.  I love the inclusion of ayats in transliterated text of the Arabic, and the concept is wonderful.  I got lost though in some of the world building and plot.  I think the action and illustrations are clear, but the text needed a little clarity in my opinion.  Again, I acknowledge my lack of familiarity with the concepts and format of the book.

I loved the bibliography and the notes included at the beginning and end.  I actually would have liked more information on the House of Wisdom and as always, a map.


The concept and references make it for more mature readers.  There is also violence, a mention to love making, and depicted death, gore, killing, etc..



Even though it is for older readers, I think it would be great on a library shelf for middle grades and up.  It probably isn’t for everyone, and many wouldn’t be tempted by it even, but the few kids that like this kind of content, will absolutely love the book.

The Amazing Discoveries of Ibn Sina by Fatima Sharafeddine illustrated by Intelaq Mohammed Ali

The Amazing Discoveries of Ibn Sina by Fatima Sharafeddine illustrated by Intelaq Mohammed Ali

ibn sina.jpg

This non fiction, 32 page book is important in introducing 3rd graders and up to a very influential Muslim that shaped the world.  I try to keep to fiction reviews, but as someone who didn’t learn about Avicenna/Ibn Sina until college, I feel like the sooner we can inspire our Muslim children to know some of these remarkable historical figures and get their stories into western curriculums the better for us all.


The book is told in first person and is translated from Arabic so parts are a bit awkward, such as when he is telling when he died, and parts do sound a little arrogant, but all that aside the book stays on task in describing Ibn Sina’s accomplishments and not getting distracted by historical, political, or cultural influences.  Some could argue that some context would be nice, but for 8 and 9 year olds, the facts are impressive enough and the streamline approach I think makes it something they can grasp.


The book is beautifully done with a 9×12 hard cover and glossy pages.  The colored pencil pictures are beautiful and rich on most pages, with the neck and eyes a bit distracting on others.


The book of course mentions his contributions to medicine but also includes his Islamic knowledge of memorizing the Quran and studying Islamic Law, cultural knowledge of knowing volumes of Persian poetry, architecture, literature, music as well as his extensive studying of philosophy, logic, linguistics, and more.


It also mentions some of his findings, which do a great job of showing readers how relevant and important his work was then and now.  Understanding how children should be educated, how infections passed, that light travels faster than sound, anesthesia for surgical patients, to name a very, very few.


I checked out the book from the public library and made my kids all read it, well not the 3 year old, and I think Islamic school teachers and Muslim parents really need to try and expose their kids to his accomplishments, get them excited about how their faith promotes questioning and education and then work on getting historical figures such as Abou Ali al-Hussein ibn Abdullah ibn al-Hassan ibn Ali ibn Sina more widely known in the greater society.