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Taj Mahal: A Story of Love and Empire (Wonders of the World Book) Hardcover – October 8, 2008
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From School Library Journal
Grade 5–8—This installment in the series begins with a two-page retelling of the love story between Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. After her death, the emperor wanted to create a monument to their enduring love and left the world the iconic building that also became a symbol of the period of Mughal reign in India. The blueprints followed the classic Persian charbagh design of quadrilateral garden squares divided by walkways, but Shah Jahan's architectural choices also incorporated Central Asian and Indian influences. Over several pages, the author explains the practical challenges that builders had to overcome during the long construction process, such as protecting the complex from the annual monsoon swelling of the nearby Yamuna River. A double foldout gives an impressive aerial view of the entire complex. Captioned photographs of artifacts and original paintings enhance the well-written text. Beautiful full-page illustrations in the detailed style of Mughal miniature paintings depict scenes of the construction process. A list of important historical dates and dimensions of the building are included. A beautiful book that highlights a stunning accomplishment in architecture.—Monika Schroeder, American Embassy School, New Delhi, India
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*Starred Review* The ongoing Wonders of the World series hits a high point with this dramatic retelling of the construction of the Taj Mahal. Mann begins with two pages of prose that relay the commonly told legend, but then proceeds to explode that legend with descriptive writing, colorful illustrations, ancient paintings, maps, and photographs. Some readers may hesitate over the density of the first few pages, but the information is quickly broken up by portraits introducing the major players—most notably Shah Jahan, the Mughal leader who combines his adoration of opulence and his grief over the death of his beloved, Mumtaz Mahal, to create one of the most recognizable structures in history. Startling details abound: Shah Jahan’s founding of an entire city to house all the necessary nobles, the irrigation system keeping flood waters from Mumtaz Mahal’s tomb, and the shocking decapitation that brings about the next ruler. The photos of priceless relics bring the story alive, and young readers will love the fold-out Taj Mahal diagram, which resembles a game board. Shah Jahan’s excesses helped bring about the demise of the Mughal Empire, and this insightful book will bring readers closer to understanding the meaning of what has been left behind. Grades 3-6. --Daniel Kraus
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Built in the Seventeenth Century, the Taj Mahal was the cultural high point of the great Mughal Empire that once ruled the India. Mann begins her story by explaining of the origins of the Mughal Empire and then moves on to a detailed description of how the Taj Mahal was built. Her story is enrichened through the use of miniature paintings produced during the era. In turn, these illustrations are supplemented by new detailed illustrations created in the Persian miniature tradition.
Elizabeth Mann writes well and does a great job of explaining a history that will be unfamiliar to most of her readers. The carefully rendered illustration add an additional layer of pleasure to the book. This book is a great purchase for children who love that heady combination of history and architecture. Highly recommended.