Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Library of Alexandria

The Library of Alexandria

Kelly Trumble
Illustrator:  Robina MacIntyre Marshall 
For ages 8 to 12
Clarion Books, 2003   ISBN: 978-0395758328

Alexander of Macedonia was young, much admired, and a great general. He created the "greatest empire yet known." One of the lands that he conquered was Egypt and it was here that he decided to found a city unlike any other. The city would lie on the Egyptian coast, and a causeway would be built between the city and the Island of Pharos. Though Alexander died before his city could be built, the general who took on the job of ruling Egypt, Ptolemy, decided to fulfill Alexander's dream.

And thus Alexandria was built. Being a man who admired people of learning, Ptolemy was agreeable to founding the Mouseion, a seat of learning and research. Such a place would need a library where scholars could go to gather information for their studies. And so the Mouseion and the library were built near Ptolemy's palace and it became a source of great pride for Ptolemy and his descendents.

It was while he was studying in Alexandria that a Greek scientist, Aristarchus, developed the idea that the earth was not at the center of the universe and that the sun was. Unfortunately the world was not ready for his ideas at this time and eighteen centuries had to pass before scientists seriously began to examine the idea of a heliocentric model of the solar system.

In addition of astronomy, the library of Alexandria became famous for its geographers. One of these was Eratosthenes, the man who served as a librarian during the reign of Ptolemy III Euergetes. Eratosthenes made a surprisingly accurate calculation for the circumference of the earth.

One of the first scholars who moved to Alexandria was Euclid, a mathematician who wrote a famous book called Elements. In this book Euclid's mathematical ideas and problems were so "elegant" that the title was used as a textbook until the twentieth century.

Today our lives are often touched by the discoveries that were made by men who studied in the library at Alexandria, and it is interesting to learn the history of this remarkable place of learning and study. After reading this book young people will come to appreciate what a tragedy it was when the library was burned down and they will be able to see that the world truly suffered when all the knowledge that it contained was destroyed.

There are illustrations throughout this title, and at the back of the book readers will find several maps, a list of names and terms, a bibliography, and a suggested reading list.