This is a beautiful historical biography of Salah al-Din, known in the west as Saladin, that I felt worth sharing despite it not being fiction. Written on an AR Level of 7.0 the 48 pages are highly wordy, and cover a lot of historical ground. There is a post script, a glossary and bibliography at the end. The pictures are detailed and bright and inviting, but even for a 7th grader, I think the book would be a challenge. If one has an interest in the time, or has studied it and knows some of the supporting characters, the book in fantastically interesting, and insightful for the format. To an average middle school or even high school student, they might thumb through it and keep it on the shelf as a reference tool, but that might be about it.
With any historical account, particularly those trying to simplify and appeal to children, the author gets to pick in what historical light to present the events. The book starts with an Author’s Note detailing the fight for Jerusalem up until the first crusade. It then begins with the story of Saladin’s life. Born in 1138, he was named Yusuf ibn Ayyub, and then tells a bit about his upbringing and the basic tenants of Islam. It explains how he came to power and how the truce with the Franks was broken by Reginald. It then details the battles, the follies and plans of both sides. It shows the honor that Saladin had for his enemies and even the respect he had from Richard the Lionheart. It shows the politicking in Europe and the toll of the Crusades on the people there and in the Middle East. The book also tries to show Saladin outside of his battle armor as a family man who was devoted to his wife Ismat. “When she (Ismat) died, Saladin was lying in his tent, seriously ill. His advisors kept the news from him for three months, until he was fully recovered, for fear the shock might kill him.”
Saladin died in 1193 and knowing that he was dying he passed on advice to his son oh how to be king. “Win the hearts of your people and watch over their prosperity; for it is to secure their happiness that you are appointed by God and by me. . . I have become as great as I am because I have won men’s heart’s by gentleness and kindness.” The book states that he was so generous and unconcerned with money and luxury that when he died he didn’t even have money to pay for his simple burial.
Admittedly I know very little about the historical accuracies or slant of the author. I do know that it does inspire pride for Muslims and hope that people of different faiths can one day again co-exist in Palestine and the world, inshaAllah.