Starlight Reviews – Philip Brooks’ Hannibal… & Enid A. Goldberg and Norman Itzkowitz’s Tomás de Torquemada…



Starlight Reviews | Jorie's Reads by Starry Night Elf

In this edition of Starlight Reviews, I offer up two books from Scholastic’s A Wicked History Series. The first one tells of the life of Hannibal Barca, the ancient Carthaginian general who fought the Romans in The Second Punic War. The other book focuses on Grand Inquisitor Tomás de Torquemada, who committed genocide against Spanish Jews. 

Hannibal: Romes Worst Nightmare (Wicked History)
Hannibal: Rome’s Worst Nightmare (A Wicked History) 
by Philip Brooks
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication date: Mar 09, 2009
Genre: Biography
ISBN: 978-0531221747
Source: Houston Public Library

Goodreads 

 Description: 

Philip Brooks relates the life of Hannibal Barca,  (247 – 183/182/181 BC). A Punic Carthaginian (modern-day  Tunisia) military commander, Hannibal learned much from his father, Hamilcar Barca. Hamilcar led the  Carthaginian troops in the First Punic War. As a child, Hannibal promised his father he would hate Rome and  forever fight its empire.

After his father died in Spain, Hannibal headed there as a general. Considered a tactical genius, Hannibal led  35,ooo soldiers and elephants (elephants!) across the Alps into Italy in 221 BC. This made Hannibal Rome’s nightmare come true.

Review: 

I  like this series for its concise survey of the various subjects. I especially like how the authors offer an  evaluation of whether this person was wicked. I encourage folks to read this book and judge for themselves.  Nevertheless, Hannibal kept his promise to his father. Conversely, his treatment of elephants was not at all humane!

             RR - Yellow  Rainbow Rating: Yellow – Parental Guidance for Kids Under 13

Tomas de Torquemada: Architect of Torture During the Spanish Inquisition (Wicked History) 
Tomás de Torquemada: Architect of Torture During the Spanish Inquisition (A Wicked History Series)

by Enid A. Goldberg & Norman Itzkowitz
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication date: Sep 28, 2007
Genre: Biography
ISBN: 9780531125984
Source: Montgomery County Memorial Library System 

Goodreads 

Description: 

In Fifteenth Century Spain, judges of the Spanish Inquisition looked under every rock they could for those breaking the laws of the Church. The Inquisition led to friends and family turning in loved ones. Those turned in endured torture. Many times, these suspects confessed to crimes just to make the torture stop. Tomás de Torquemada oversaw all of this.

Goldberg and Itzkowitz delve into the character of Torquemada and seek out the reasons for his genocidal mania. They offer details which shed light on possible motives. Also, readers discover how Torquemada rose to power with the help of Isabella I. His vendetta against the Jews and Moors (Islamic people of Northern African descent) changed the landscape of the Old World.

Review: 

Again, I liked this short, sweet volume on the life of Torquemada. I appreciated the illustrations and the final thoughts of Goldberg and Itzkowitz addressed many issues that still exist. Even today, people refer to the Inquisition in casual conversation. My only complaint was the description of the torture techniques. Nevertheless, it goes with the territory of a book about the Spanish Inquisition.

RR - Orange  Rainbow Rating: Orange – Restricted from those under age 17 

 

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Denise Rinaldo’s Julius Caesar: Dictator (A Wicked History)


Julius Caesar: Dictator for Life (Wicked History) by Denise Rinaldo | LibraryThing

Rinaldo, D. (2010). Julius Caesar: Dictator for life. New York: Franklin Watts. 9780531212769

Reasons for Reading After I finished the Cleopatra biography, I wanted to know a little more about Julius Caesar. Yet, I didn’t want to read a 400 page book about him. That’s when I remembered the Wicked History Series. I checked out a copy from HCPL.

Summary Back in 100 BC, Rome existed as a democratic republic. Some consider this one of first democracies. Yet, Rome faced trouble – slave revolts, corrupt politicians, military coups, etc.

Rising from the Roman ashes, Julius Caesar eases the chaos. He ruthlessly attacked all who opposed him; including old allies. After winning the civil war, Caesar declared himself supreme ruler. The Republic ended with him. Not everyone liked that.

What I Liked This series of books delivers the facts in a concise, informative way. I appreciated learning the facts of Julius Caesar and his world without being bogged down in too many details.

What I Disliked Just one thing – I wished for more on Cleopatra.

Four Out of Five Pearls

Quote:

We should all be

very afraid. He is surely

making himself into a tyrant.

– Roman orator Cicero, on Caesar, 59 B.C.

Song: Tears For Fears – “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” – ORIGINAL VIDEO – YouTube

Setting: Ancient Rome, the Near East, Europe

You might also like:

For more about Julius Caesar, please check out the following sites:

Sean Stewart Price’s Attila the Hun: Leader of the barbarian hordes (A Wicked History)


Price, S. (2009). Attila the Hun: Leader of the barbarian hordes. New York: Franklin Watts. 9780531207376

When I discovered “A Wicked History” series, the biography of Attila the Hun was among the first I checked out from HCPL. I knew next to nothing about Attila but looked forward to reading the book.

The Roman Empire ruled most of the known world for over 400 years. Towards the end of the Roman Empire’s dominion, the brutish Huns imposed their own reign of terror. The Romans weren’t immune, either. The Huns were a scary cavalry which galloped through Eurasia and broke up “civilization.” The Huns were united under one man, Attila. Under his direction, the Huns extorted emperors, bullied neighbors, and made themselves known. The civilized people called him the scourge of God.

Only one record remains from an historian who encountered Attila. This Attila biography intrigued me. I’m still astonished by the hostage exchange of Attila and Flavius Aetius (a West Roman). It amused me how the Huns extorted Theodosius III, the East Roman Emperor. Also, I was impressed with how the citizens of Constantinople dealt with disaster. Yet, Attila would be no friend of mine. I definitely think he was wicked. What do you say?

Four Out of Five Pearls

Quote:

He was a man born to shake the races of the earth, a terror to all lands. . . .

– Priscus of Panium, describing Attila the Hun

Word Bank: (from the glossary of this book)

  • ambassador – a person sent by a government to represent that government in another country
  • assassinate – to murder someone who is well-known or important
  • avenge – to inflict harm in return for a wrong done to oneself or another
  • barbarians – people from various tribes that invaded the Roman Empire during the third to fifth centuries A.D.
  • battering ram – a large wooden weapon that was used to break down city walls
  • cavalry – soldiers who ride on horseback
  • consolidate – to bring several different parts together into one
  • corruption – to bring several different parts together into one
  • coup – a sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power
  • demoralize – to cause to lose confidence or hope
  • deploy – to move troops into position for military action
  • depose – to remove from office suddenly and forcefully
  • devastate – to cause great distress, damage, or destruction
  • devout – deeply religious
  • divine – to do with or from God
  • empire – a group of countries or regions that have the same ruler
  • envoy – a person appointed to represent one government in its dealings with another
  • formidable – inspiring fear or respect through being impressively powerful
  • impale – to torture or kill by piercing with a sharp stake
  • legion – in the late Roman Empire, a military unit made up of about 1,000 men, each armed with a long, thrusting spear
  • monastery – a group of buildings where monks live and work
  • monk – a man who lives in a religious community and has promised to devote his life to his God
  • negotiate – to discuss something in order to come to an agreement
  • nomad – a person who wanders from place to place
  • pagan – a person who is not a member of the Christian, Jewish, or Muslim religions; such a person may worship many gods or have no religion at all
  • pillage – to rob using violence, especially in wartime
  • proposition – an offer or suggestion
  • province – a district or region of a country or empire
  • refugee -a person who is forced to leave his or her home because of war, persecution, or a natural disaster
  • reprieve – a postponement of a punishment
  • savagery – behavior that is fierce, violent, and uncontrolled
  • scourge – a cause of great harm and suffering
  • siege – the surrounding of a place, such as a castle or city, to cut off supplies and then wait for those inside to surrender
  • successor – one who follows another in a position of leadership

Places: Hungary, Italy, France, Germany, Russia, Turkey, Central Asia

For more about Attila the Hun, please check out the following sites:

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:

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:

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