From School Library Journal
Grade 6 & Up--In preparation since 1998, Landau's title nonetheless has little to offer readers who want to know what makes this man tick, beyond generalities about Islamic fundamentalism and a thin framework of facts fleshed out by suppositions. Of course, being private, cagey, and thoroughly conversant in techniques of disinformation, bin Laden keeps his past as shadowy as his present whereabouts-but as Landau's source notes are limited to previously published print resources, she obviously hasn't tried very hard. She does lay out bin Laden's family history, trace his general movements over the past 20 years, convey a sense of his methods and organizational skills, and, while separating him sharply from the Muslim mainstream, notes his ominous popularity in much of the Middle East. She also uncritically assumes his responsibility for the September 11th disaster-a connection that, government assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, has not as yet been unequivocally established-and, as lines like "The alliance would be crucial militarily" show, has made hasty revisions in an effort to stay on top of recent events. Supplemented by a regularly updated Web site such as the one associated with PBS Frontline's "Hunting bin Laden," this book may help students toward some understanding of the origins and motives of international terrorism, but it's only an early, and superficial, entry in an upcoming rush of titles on the topic.John Peters, New York Public Library
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 6-10. Now that bin Laden's name is a household word, the need for a book about the man is more pressing than ever. Landau, who is known for her solid research, applies her considerable talents here, and because she has been working on this volume since 1998, it's far more valuable than any quick release. Landau covers most aspects of bin Laden's life, starting with his privileged boyhood. As a young adult, bin Laden reveled in Beirut's nightlife, but after restoring mosques, he became religious, eventually becoming fundamentalist in his beliefs. He fought against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, becoming a hero to many, some of whom were recruited into his terrorist network. Landau also looks closely at bin Laden's involvement in terrorist attacks in Somalia and the bombing of the USS Cole
. Her narrative is absorbing, and she does a fine job explaining the evolution of a terrorist while putting bin Laden's life into the context of global issues and concerns, especially the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. The problem, of course, is that Landau says bin Laden is still alive, something that can change any time, and once it does, the book will seem dated. Nevertheless, the background information will remain valid and useful, and young people wanting to understand current events will do well to start here. To be illustrated with photographs. Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved