Word of the Day


Flickr CC | St. George River Bascule Railroad Bridge | Photo by: cmh2315fl

bascule (bas·cule)

Pronunciation:/ˈbaskyo͞ol/ (also bascule bridge)

noun * a type of bridge with a pivoting section that is raised and lowered using counterweights * a moveable section of road forming part of such a bridge

Advertisements

Norman Itzkowitz & Enid A. Goldberg’s Genghis Khan : 13th-century Mongolian tyrant (A Wicked History)


Itzkowitz, N., & Goldberg, E. A. (2008). In Genghis Khan: 13th-century Mongolian tyrant. New York: Franklin Watts. 0531125963

When I searched online for a listing of “A Wicked History” Series, I discovered that the biography of Genghis Khan was one of the first. Disappointed that none of my local libraries had this one about Genghis Khan, I requested the item through interlibrary loan (ILL). Before reading this slim volume on the guy, I knew next to nothing about him – he was a scary man who still had the world talking, he left numerous descendants, and John Wayne, of all people, played Genghis Khan in a movie sans accent.

Genghis Khan was  born Temujin in the twelfth century on the harsh Mongolian Steppe. Here, many tribes duked it out constantly – fighting for survival and turf. His parents were the tough Yesugei and his kidnapped bride Hoelun. This was all but a dog eat dog world where the Mongols and others nomads of the treeless plain lived in yurts and eeked out an existence. When Yesugei died from a poisoned dish, Temujin and his family were left to fend for themselves. Where most perished, Temujin was scrappy and ornery enough to survive.

Temujin grew strong and conquered his world. His warriors maded up the best army and, with them, Temujin terrorized cities, raped and pillaged, rendered people homeless. He punished his enemies mercilessly.

However, Temujin became Genghis Khan (thought to mean “universal ruler”), a man also known for his loyalty and providence. He unified the clans and the tribes of the Steppe. Genghis Khan was even called religiously tolerant and he established a sort of pony express and even a written language.

Not much is certain about Genghis Khan; he permitted no one to paint his portrait and his grave site is unknown. A copy of The Secret History of the Mongols turned up in China in the 1880s.   This work depicts a son born in a bad situation, who pursued his own life ruthlessly.

Whether or not Genghis Khan was wicked seems to be an easy call for me. What do you think?

Three Out of Five Pearls

Quote:

The leaders of the Mongols said to the young Genghis Khan: We will make you khan . . . . And if we disobey your command, separate us from our families, from our ladies and wives. Separates us, and throw down our heads upon the ground! If we disobey you, exile us and throw us out into the wilderness.

– Excerpt from The History of the Life of Genghis Khan: The Secret History of the Mongols

Word Bank: (from the glossary of this book)

  • alliance – an agreement to work together
  • ally – a person or country that gives support to another
  • andas – in Mongol culture, friends who proved the closeness of their bond by drinking each other’s blood
  • ballista – a weapon that worked like a giant crossbow; it shot arrows that could break through the walls of buildings
  • Buddhist – a person who practices Buddhism, a religion based on the teachings of Buddha and practiced mainly in eastern and central Asia
  • caravan – a group of people traveling together
  • civilized – highly developed and organized
  • clan – an extended family group
  • descendant – a person’s child, grandchild, or other such relative on into the future
  • empire – a group of countries or regions that have the same ruler
  • exile – a situation in which one is forced to stay away from one’s homeland
  • firelance – a spear-like weapon with a tube containing gunpowder
  • Genghis Khan – Mongol words meaning “universal ruler”; Mongol leaders gave Temujin this title in 1206
  • khan – a Mongol word meaning ruler or leader
  • Muslim – someone who follows the religion of Islam, a religion based on the teachings of Muhammad
  • nomadic – wandering from place to place
  • ruthless – cruel and without pity
  • sable – a small animal that looks like a weasel; its soft brown fur is very valuable
  • sacred – holy, deserving great respect
  • scribe – a person who copies documents by hand
  • shaman – a person who communicates with the spirit world to help tell the future, control events, or cure the sick
  • steppe – treeless plains found in Asia
  • sultan – an emperor or ruler of some Muslim countries
  • tribe – a group of people who share the same ancestors and customs
  • Yasa – the code of law created by Genghis Khan
  • yoke – a wooden frame placed around a person’s neck to hold him or her prisoner
  • yurt – a circular tent made of felt stretched over a light, portable frame of branches

Places: Mongolia, China, Persia, Armenia, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia

For more on Genghis Khan, please check out the following sites:

Sean Stewart Price’s Cixi: Evil Empress of China? (A Wicked History)


Price, S. (2009). In Cixi: Evil empress of China?. New York: Franklin Watts. 0531221717

Scanning HCPL’s catalog for books of  “A Wicked History” Series, the only female I found was Catherine the Great.  Looking beyond the scope of HCPL, I found two more females in this series – Mary Tudor and Cixi. (When selecting biographies, I seek out the  females first due to my youth spent in Girl Scouts.) I knew next to nothing about Cixi, even the pronunciation of her name (it’s tsu shee, by the way). Thus, I requested her biography through interlibrary loan (ILL).

Cixi was born on 29 November 1835, more than likely in the Anhui province. Since she was a girl, she probably didn’t even have a first name. Later on, she was called Yehenara. Scholars believe she was born in the Anhui province of China. Her family was very poor but she was fortunate to be born into the Manchu clan, the ruling clan of China.

Being a Manchu enabled Yehenara’s family to register her as a concubine for the emperor. Additionally, Yehenara was pretty, crafty, and power hungry. Yehenara became a concubine of Xianfeng (shee-ahn-fung), Emperor of China, part of the Qing (ching) Dynasty. Yehenara secured her position in the dyanstic family by bearing Xianfeng a son. At Xianfeng’s early demise, Yehenara became Cixi, Empress Dowager of the West Palace.

From there, Cixi developed into a despotic puppetmaster, residing behind a silk curtain and directing her son, then her nephew in all matters. Many believed she poisoned those who opposed her conservative, then reactionary ideology. During her time as the woman behind the man, Cixi dealt with the hard blows of rebellion, invasion, natural disaster, and famine. She hindered more than helped, accused of driving her very own people to “chaos and starvation.”

I appreciated much that Price provided pronunciations of Chinese words and Price explained events well. Of all the biographies from the series I’ve read, I thought this one the most appropriate for juvenile audiences. As I previously stated, I knew very little about Cixi and can’t argue much with what Price has told me.

Was Cixi simply a product of her environment or was she evil?

Four Out of Five Pearls

Quote:

I have often thought that I am the most clever woman who ever lived, and others cannot compare with me.

– Cixi, Empress Dowager of China

Word Bank: (from the glossary of this book)

  • ancestor – a relative who lived a long time ago
  • barbarian – someone who is savage or uncivilized
  • barricade – a barrier to stop people from getting past a certain point
  • blaspheme – to say offensive things about a religion
  • billet – a chunky piece of wood
  • Buddhism – a religion based on the teachings of Buddha and practiced mainly in eastern and central Asia
  • calligraphy – the art of beautiful handwriting
  • civilization – an advanced stage of human organization, technology, and culture
  • concubine – a woman who has been chosen to be one of a Chinese emperor’s official mates, but whose social status is below that of a wife
  • Confucianism – a religion based on the teachings of Confucius, a Chinese philosopher who lived in ancient times
  • conservative – someone who opposes change and likes things to stay as they are or used to be
  • convert – a person who has changed his or her religion
  • corrupt – to make someone bad or dishonest
  • democracy – a country in which the people choose their leaders in elections
  • diplomat – a person who represents his or her country’s government in a foreign country
  • elite – a group of people who have special advantages and privileges
  • embassy – the official place in a foreign country where an ambassador lives and works
  • emperor – the male ruler of an empire
  • empress dowager – the title given to the mother of a Chinese emperor
  • eunuchs – men who could not have children and were servants to the Chinese imperial family
  • famine – a life-threatening lack of food
  • missionary – someone who is sent by a religious group to another place to teach that group’s faith
  • opium – an addictive drug that comes from the sap of the opium poppy
  • queue – a brad of hair, usually worn at the back of the head
  • reform – a removal or correction of an abuse or wrong
  • regent – a person selected to act as head of state because the ruler is too young to rule or is absent or ill
  • seal – a design pressed into wax and made into a stamp; it may be used to make a document official
  • sedan chair – a portable chair that is carried by two men
  • shrine – a holy building that often contains sacred objects
  • stupefied – astonished
  • succession – the order in which one person after another takes over a title or throne
  • Taoism – a Chinese religious tradition that emphasizes compassion, moderation, humility, and simplicity
  • treachery – the act of turning against someone who trusted you

Places: China

For more on Cixi, please see the following:



Happy Anniversary, Atticus & Scout!


Fifty years ago today, Harper Lee’s timeless To Kill a Mockingbird was published. This is one of my all-time favorite books and I own at least one copy of it somewhere.

Congrats to the book and to its author! May more people discover the lessons taught by Atticus Finch!

Kathy Kemp: Let us now praise Harper Lee

Libba Bray’s Going Bovine


Bray, L. (2009). Going bovine. New York: Delacorte Press. 0385904118

Davies, E., & Bray, L. (2009). Going bovine. New York: Random House/Listening Library. 9780739385579

Yes, they say you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. However, seeing the cow carrying a whimsical gnome drove me to check out the book from HCPL. Unfortunately, I had a stack of other books at the time and had to turn in the book. Later on, I checked out the audiobook and was quite pleased by Erik Davies’ narration.

Cameron John Smith seems to be a stereotypical sixteen year old boy living in Hidalgo, Tx – too smart to give a flip about anything. He’s an awkward underachiever who has rejected the world before it can reject him. He tries to get by without calling much attention to himself. Yet, his body seems to have lost control. Cameron sees weird things, too – a punk angel, fiery giants, etc.

By some odd twist of fate, Cameron has gotten Creutzfeldt Jakob’s Disease (commonly known as mad cow disease) from a burger eaten at his former place of employment, Buddha Burger (ironic, isn’t it?).  (A side note here for all of my former Natural World II classmates – thanks to Deadly Feasts, we know all about CJD and folks going bovine.) Cameron finds himself in the hospital bed by spring break, sometimes sharing a room with a hypochondriac dwarf classmate of his, Gonzo. That is when Dulcie, the punk angel addresses him and commissions him to save the world in exchange for a cure. Finding he has nothing left to lose, Cameron ventures forth with sidekick Gonzo.

Without revealing much more, I loved the parts involving Balder, the Norse god trapped in a garden gnome shell. Also, I can describe this novel with one of my favorite words – quixotic. Cameron goes on quests, has a sidekick, fights for the honor of Dulcie (Dulcenea), and tilts windmills.

The imagination and creativity of Bray impressed me greatly. Nonetheless, she carefully minded boundaries; leaving Don Quixote and Disney World as is.

One caveat: this is for older teens. Going Bovine deals in topics such as sex and sexuality as well as using profanity.

ALA | The Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, given by YALSA

Four out of Five Pearls

Word Bank:

Places: The United States

For more on Libba Bray’s Going Bovine, please check out the following:

NY Daily News: Frida Kahlo’s 103rd birthday celebrated with Google doodle


Flickr CC | Frida Kahlo | Photo by OliverAlex

Today is Frida Kahlo’s birthday. In Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna, Kahlo and protagonist Harrison Shepherd shared a birthday – 06 July. 

Entertainment | 07/06/2010Frida Kahlo’s 103rd birthday celebrated with Google doodleBy Anthony BenignoToday would be Frida Kahlo’s 103rd birthday, and Google is doling out a special gift to celebrate the painter’s life and contribution to the art scene.

Terms Of Use | The New York Daily News | Privacy Policy

Kimberley Heuston’s Napoleon: Emperor and Conqueror


Heuston, K. (2010). In Napoleon: Emperor and conqueror. New York: Franklin Watts. 9780531212776

Of  “A Wicked History” Series, the one about Napoleon was the first one I borrowed from HCPL. My dad managed to read this one before I did, too.

On 15 August 1769, Nabullione Buonoparte was born in the newly French land of Corsica. His folks had Italian leanings but this didn’t prevent them from sending their sharp son away to French military school. While his mother may have seen Nabullione’s gifts for math and strategy, nobody could’ve predicted he would rise to the title of emperor.

Napoleon Bonaparte (the French version of his name) made himself the ruler of the French Empire in 1804. A great general who slept very little, picked fights, and found himself, ultimately, at rock bottom.

Within his madness, I found some sympathy for Napoleon. Then, I would remember the way he treated his wife, his beloved Josephine, or how he maniacally marched troops all over the Old World to please himself. Still and all, his mark on history is indelible. Napoleon inspired Beethoven’s Eroica and what Alfred Adler termed the “Napoleon Complex.” This was also the man who brought the Napoleonic Code.

Wicked? Mad? Overcompensating? All of the above? Who’s to say?

My favorite part was the author’s note. Heuston described how a student teacher imitated Napoleon in a lecture, hand in cardigan, because Napoleon had no pockets. This made Heuston ask, “Is it legal for school to be this fun?”

Four out of Five Pearls

Quote:

My business is to succeed, and I’m good at it.

– Napoleon to Pope Pius VII in 1804

Word Bank: (from the glossary of this book)

  • battalion – a large unit of soldiers; in Napoleon’s armies, a unit of about 840 soldiers
  • blockade – the closing off of an area to keep people or supplies from moving in or out
  • bubonic plague – a serious disease that spreads quickly and often causes death
  • commission – a written order giving rank in the armed services
  • constitution – the system of laws in a country that state the rights of the people and the powers of the government
  • consul – any of the three chief executives of France from 1799 to 1804; Napoleon was First Consul, the most important of the three
  • Directory – the executive body, made up of five men, that led France from 1795 to 1799.
  • egotist – someone who has an exaggerated sense of self importance
  • embargo – an official ban on trade or other commercial activity with a particular country
  • envoy – a person appointed to represent one government in its dealings with another
  • exemption – a release from a rule that others have to follow
  • exile – the state of being barred from one’s native country
  • fraternity – the state or feeling of friendship and mutual support within a group
  • guerrilla – describing a type of warfare in which small groups of fighters launch surprise attacks against an official army
  • guillotine – a large machine with a sharp blade used to sever heads of criminals
  • hieroglyphics – writing used by ancient Egyptians, made up of pictures and symbols
  • legislature – a group of people who have the power to make or change laws for a country or state
  • Napoleonic Code – the first modern organized body of law governing France, established by Napoleon in 1804
  • republic – a form of government in which citizens have the power to elect representatives who manage the government
  • revolution – an uprising by the people of a country that changes the country’s system of government
  • Royalist – a person who supported the monarchy during the French Revolution

Places: Corsica, France, Italy, Egypt, Prussia, Russia

Music:

For more on Napoleon, please see the following: