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The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela: Through Three Continents in the Twelfth Century Hardcover – March 10, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 4-8–Benjamin, a Spanish Jew, left his native town of Tudela in 1159 to embark on a 14-year journey across the Middle East. His Book of Travels, written in Hebrew, recounts his grueling, often-dangerous journey through what is modern-day France, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Egypt. Encounters with warring Crusaders and Muslims, rapacious pirates, and bandits added to his hardships. Shulevitz re-creates this epic journey in a picture book of epic proportions, adapting Benjamin's account into a detailed, first-person narrative, accompanied by large, ambitious illustrations that evoke the landscapes, people, architecture, and history of the places that Benjamin saw. Darker, freer, and more impressionistic than Shulevitz's familiar work, the art is often indebted to medieval manuscript painting and Persian miniatures. Meticulously researched, with a long bibliography, lengthy author's note, and brief insets containing information that complements Benjamin's descriptions, this oversize picture book is obviously a labor of love. Wherever he went, Benjamin visited Jewish communities. Shulevitz's retelling stands as a testimony to the history, wisdom, and fortitude of those medieval Jews living precariously under Christian or Muslim rule. Both art and text will help readers imagine life during that time and, perhaps, provide a context for the contemporary turmoil in the lands Benjamin visited so long ago.–Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 4-7. At first blush, the story of a bona fide twelfth-century Jewish wanderer might not seem the stuff of picture books, even for older readers. But this is so uniquely rendered that it proves, along with other recently published titles, that outstanding execution can draw readers to almost any subject. This fictional account follows Benjamin on a 14-year trip, which takes him from his home in Spain to historic cities of the ancient world: Rome, Babylon, Baghdad, and Jerusalem, among others. Illness, hunger, thirst, thieves, and assassins plague the journey. Yet there are also wonderful adventures, mystical stories, and fabulous sights, such as the pyramids. Told in an expansive first-person narrative, the book is filled with a bazaar's worth of detail, with unobtrusive sidebars explaining text references. In an extensive author's note, Shulevitz discusses how, beginning with Benjamin's actual diary in the original Hebrew, he faced the task of making the mostly factual reporting appealing by adding incidents found in other books. An extensive bibliography lists his sources, but, unfortunately, there are no specifics about the experiences he took from them. It's no surprise that Shulevitz, a Caldecott winner, provides splendid illustrations, but he outdoes himself here. The richly painted scenes, which vary in style and color according to their location, are highlighted by collage accents. Together with the evocative text, they capture the sweep of mysterious and faraway places. For other stories of intrepid travelers, see the adjacent Read-alikes column. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 13 years
  • Grade Level: 3 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 920L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1st edition (April 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374377545
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374377540
  • Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 0.5 x 11.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #824,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Janie Grackin on March 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Beautifully written and illustrated, The Travels of Bejamin of Tudela takes us on an incredible journey through the ancient Jewish world into the Diaspora nine hundred years ago. As the story unfolds, we visit one enchanting city after another and experience with our imaginations and amazing illustrations the sights, sounds, and smells of each beautiful and mysterious location. Don't miss this great adventure!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By JH on January 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this with my 7-year-old daughter, and we both loved it. It's a fascinating story that effortlessly weaves in history and geography. The pictures are beautiful.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bibliophilic on December 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
To say this is a picture book is misleading. This book is a work of art and history for readers 8 through 12, with mature 5 to 7 year olds enjoying this as a read-aloud in sections for a few nights running. Uri Shulevitz's captivating artwork always sets apart his books, but in this case, his writing is also truly magnificent. Told largely in a first-person narrative adapted from the Hebrew with additional historical sources, Shulevitz really runs with the voice of Benjamin. He becomes as compelling as the true-life adventure he tells. As a gift (or even as class project), it would make a neat paring with Demi's _Marco Polo_, which is less readable, though similar in theme and also with gorgeous artwork. Boys will particularly like this book, I think.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Heiss on April 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Straightforward book of the wanderings of a Jewish man around the Mediterranean and Persia in the 1100's. Does not go much into the dangers of travel, and mostly recounts how unpleasant and difficult the journey itself was. Tells briefly some of what there was to see.

I was troubled to see that this book claims (in passing) that the captive Israelites built Egypt's great pyramids. The pyramids were already a thousand years old when the Bible's Joseph was in Egypt. This is a fairly common misconception, but it would be nice for books like this to set the record straight.
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