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:



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:

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:

J.D. Robb’s In Death Series


Ericksen, S., & Robb, J. D. (2004). In Naked in death. Brilliance Audio on compact disc. Grand Haven, MI: Brilliance Audio. 9781593558284

Ericksen, S., & Robb, J. D. (2004). In Glory in death. In Death, #2. Grand Haven, Mich: Brilliance Audio. 9781593558314

McMurdo-Wallis, C., & Robb, J. D. (2001). In Immortal in death. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books. 9781402515385

Robb, J. D., & Ericksen, S. (2006). Rapture in death. Brilliance Audio on compact disc. Grand Haven, MI: Brilliance Audio. 9781423313533

Robb, J. D., & Ericksen, S. (2001). Ceremony in death. Grand Haven, Mich: Brilliance Audio. 9781423313717

With a new car and a new CD player, I once again became  an “audiobook reader.” So, I chose to give Nora Roberts’ turn as J.D. Robb a shot.

The “In Death” series offers a bleak look at the future. The main character is Eve Dallas, a thirty-year old NYPSD (New York Police and Security Department) lieutenant in the year 2058. Before we become depressed though, I’d like to say Dallas’ world is a phoenix rising from the ashes of the Urban Wars a few decades before Naked in Death. Technology is grand and inspiring and people regularly do business “off planet.”

Lt. Eve Dallas investigates homicide on (and off) the mean streets of New York City. She’s a phoenix herself; having been found as an eight year old girl on a Dallas, Texas street with a broken arm and covered in blood.  A social worker names her “Eve Dallas.” Before this, she lived with her abusive father that she only recalls in the aforementioned nightmares.

Eve grows up in the foster care system. As an adult, Eve joins the police force in 2051. While working on a homicide case involving murdered licensed companions (legal prostitutes), Eve meets Roark, an Irish multi-millionaire, who romances her.

As anyone can see, I’ve continued with the series and I’m working on the fourth book, Rapture in Death. Having read Nora Roberts, J.D. Robb would be my preference. There’s continuity, the futuristic aspects, and a bit of grit. While I hope there are no events such as the Urban Wars, I look forward to traveling to Mars and parents receiving government paychecks for being parents.

I strongly recommend reading these in order.

Three out of Five Pearls

Word Bank: Check out the Glossary on J.D. Robb’s site.

Places: New York City, Dallas, Texas, East Washington, New Los Angeles, Ireland, Mexico, Mars, “Off planet”

For more on J.D. Robb’s “In Death” series, please check out the following sites:

TBRs – Kerry Miller’s Passive aggressive notes…


Miller, K. (2008). In Passive aggressive notes: Painfully polite and hilariously hostile writings, and just plain aggressive. New York: Harper Collins. 978-0061630590

Title – Passive aggressive notes: Painfully polite and hilariously hostile writings, and just plain aggressive

Author – Kerry Miller

Found – As one of my coworkers was checking the item into the system on June 02, he said, “Jorie, you’ve got to see this.” I later asked if he was trying to tell me something.

From the back cover – “Part voyeuristic entertainment, part group therapy, Passive Aggressive Notes offers a fascinating look at the all-too-familiar frustrations of embattled office drones, apartment dwellers, parents, and pet owners everywhere…”

Did I check it out? – No, but I requested it.

More to see on Kerry Miller’s Passive aggressive notes: Painfully polite and hilariously hostile writings, and just plain aggressive :

Zu Vincent’s Catherine the Great: Empress of Russia


Vincent, Z. (2009). Catherine the Great: Empress of Russia. New York: Franklin Watts. 0531207382

The first time I remember hearing the name “Catherine the Great” was as a child. Some art expo was in town and the theme dealt with her. Seeing the paintings of an older woman in eighteenth century getup, I judged her to be long gone. So, I asked my mom, “Who was she?” Mom told me how she was a Russian Empress. Soon after, one of the less official television networks ran a movie about Catherine the Great as a young woman. She was beautiful, her husband – Peter, was a tool, and Catherine and her lover Gregory Orlov pulled a coup for the empire.

With my recent introduction to A Wicked History series, I read Zu Vincent’s Catherine the Great: Empress of Russia. The cover shows an imperious Catherine with the word “Despot” spray-painted across her. Inside this book, I found a cunning young woman striving for survival, then power.

Born Princess Sophie Friederike Auguste of Anhalt-Zerbst in 1729, she was the daughter of Prussian Prince Christian August and Princess Johanna. Princess Johanna found the Prussian town dreary and wanted escape and she would use the young Sophie to do so.

Thus, at the fifteen year old Sophie and Princess Johanna arrived in Russia. Sophie sought the hand of Crown Prince Peter, a marriage of power, not love. His mother, Empress Elizabeth, liked Sophie, and soon, Sophie became Catherine and married Peter.  Peter couldn’t stand her and Elizabeth feared Catherine’s intellect. Catherine bid her time for nearly twenty years, enduring mistreatment and abuse by Elizabeth and Peter.

When Elizabeth died, Catherine, with the help of numerous others, overpowered her jerky husband’s power. To the amazement of all of Europe, Catherine lived a long life, ruling her adopted home of Russia.

An important question Vincent asks is “Was she wicked?” After reading this biography, let me know what you think.

Four out of Five Pearls

Quote:

The glory of the country is my own glory – to raise the Russian Empire to a degree of power above that of the other empires of Asia and Europe.

– Catherine the Great

Word Bank: (from the glossary of this book)

  • alliance – an agreement to work together
  • bureaucrat – an official in a governmental department
  • Cossacks – people of Southern Russia, Ukraine, and Siberia who were known for their independence and military skill
  • coup – a sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power
  • empire – a group of countries or regions that have the same ruler
  • Enlightenment – a philosophical movement of the Eighteenth Century that emphasized the use of human reason to build a better world
  • khan – a ruler of Turkish or Tatar tribes during the time of Catherine the Great
  • open letter – a document that is addressed to a person but meant to be read by a wide audience
  • Protestant – a Christian who does not belong to the Roman Catholic or Orthodox Church
  • pustule – a small blister or pimple on the skin containing pus
  • Russian Orthodox – describing the major church of Christianity in Russia
  • scythe – a tool with a large, curved blade used for cutting crops
  • sovereign – the supreme leader of a country
  • steppe – a vast, treeless plain
  • sultan – an emperor or ruler of a Muslim monarchy
  • treason – the crime of betraying one’s country
  • tsar – the emperor, or “Caesar,” of Russia
  • tyrannical – ruling others in a cruel or unjust way

Places: Prussia, Russia, Constantinople, Poland, France, Great Britain

For more on Zu Vincent’s Catherine the Great: Empress of Russia, please check out the following links:

St. Thomas More School Media Center