Saints and heroes

9th May 2003 at 01:00
10 HEROES FROM THE EAST. Hood Hood books, pound;35 boxed set, pound;4.50 each book

The 10 heroes form an attractively boxed set of books, each about 20 pages, for key stage 2 multicultural education. We have Alexander, Cheng Ho, Cleopatra, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Mehmet, the Queen of Sheba, Razia, Rumi, Saladin and Sinan. Artistic licence has been used in both the writing and the pictures and some books suffer from the problems of condensing a hero into 20 pages. No references are provided for where the text came from or for further enquiry by the reader. But this small library, happy and sad, with some very striking illustrations, mixes the mystery of faraway places with the story or legend of real people.

THE ISLAMIC YEAR. By Noorah Al-Gailani and Chris Smith. Hawthorn Press pound;15.99

The subtitle for this resource book for teachers is Surahs, Stories and Celebrations and it provides a mixture of Muhammad's life, Muslim celebrations, Koranic quotations and traditional Arab folk tales. There are black and white illustrations. Noorah Al-Gailani, an Iraqi Muslim, finds much existing material on Islam dull. She feels writers are frightened to find humour in Islam, lest it be interpreted as flippancy. "But there's no reason why learning about our faith shouldn't be entertaining and fun".

This is perhaps the strength of this book. It isn't as different as it claims, although some of the Arab tales are gold and the descriptions of Iraqi, Palestinian, Ugandan and other nations' Islamic customs are helpful.

THE LION TREASURY OF SAINTS. By David Self. Lion Children's Books pound;14.99

This book introduces more than 100 saints, including some unofficial ones, through 2,000 years of Christianity. It starts with Mary the Mother of Jesus and ends with Mother Teresa and Oscar Romero. A section on angels and archangels is appended. Each saint gets a two-page spread and each page is illustrated. David Self tells key points of their life in story form. A brief, more formal paragraph biography of each appears as an appendix. The calendar of saint's days at the end will no doubt be seized on by those hunting for material for collective worship. This is a useful resource for the key stage 2 library. In RE lessons, associated issues might also be raised: in a culture of cynicism, whom do we admire? What do we live for? What, if anything, would we die for? The "saints" of all religions challenge us to come up with answers.

CHRISTIANITY. By Philip Wilkinson. Dorling Kindersley pound;9.99

We look to DK texts in any field to provide lavish colour illustrations and compact accurate text. This book does not disappoint. But it has the impossible task of "doing" 2,000 years of Christianity in 64 pages. This means there are bound to be quibbles about what is put in or left out. Too much space is given to monasticism and the Shakers could have been omitted entirely, as they are very much a minority and are mentioned without real explanation. More images of African, Middle Eastern and South American Christianity would have helped, along with more young people.

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