The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela

Through Three Continents in the Twelfth Century

By Uri Shulevitz
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), Hardcover, 9780374377540, 48pp.)

Publication Date: March 10, 2005

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Through Three Continents in the Twelfth Century

Imagine a time when streets were narrow and dirty, towns were surrounded by walls, brigands lurked alongside roads that were treacherous and few, bridges over rivers were rare, and a man setting out on a journey never knew if he would return alive. It was the year 1159 when the medieval Jewish traveler Benjamin left his native town of Tudela in northern Spain on an adventure to see the places he had read about in the Bible. He traveled for fourteen years - from Rome to Constantinople to Jerusalem to Baghdad, among others - by ship, by cart, and on foot, enduring great hardships in his quest for knowledge of other places and people.

Working from Benjamin's original chronicle, written in Hebrew, as well as other sources on the period, Uri Shulevitz captures the true spirit of this amazing adventurer, using a text written in the first person and superlative illustrations. The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela is a 2006 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

About the Author

Uri Shulevitz is a Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator and author. He was born in Warsaw, Poland, on February 27, 1935. He began drawing at the age of three and, unlike many children, never stopped. The Warsaw blitz occurred when he was four years old, and the Shulevitz family fled. For eight years they were wanderers, arriving, eventually, in Paris in 1947. There Shulevitz developed an enthusiasm for French comic books, and soon he and a friend started making their own. At thirteen, Shulevitz won first prize in an all-elementary-school drawing competition in Paris's 20th district.  In 1949, the family moved to Israel, where Shulevitz worked a variety of jobs: an apprentice at a rubber-stamp shop, a carpenter, and a dog-license clerk at Tel Aviv City Hall. He studied at the Teachers' Institute in Tel Aviv, where he took courses in literature, anatomy, and biology, and also studied at the Art Institute of Tel Aviv. At fifteen, he was the youngest to exhibit in a group drawing show at the Tel Aviv Museum.  At 24 he moved to New York City, where he studied painting at Brooklyn Museum Art School and drew illustrations for a publisher of Hebrew books. One day while talking on the telephone, he noticed that his doodles had a fresh and spontaneous look—different from his previous illustrations. This discovery was the beginning of Uri's new approach to his illustrations for The Moon in My Room, his first book, published in 1963. Since then he was written and illustrated many celebrated children’s books. He won the Caldecott Medal for The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, written by Arthur Ransome. He has also earned three Caldecott Honors, for The Treasure, Snow and How I Learned Geography. His other books include One Monday Morning, Dawn, So Sleepy Story,and many others. He also wrote the instructional guide Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books. He lives in New York City.

Praise For The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela

"An eye-filling tour of the medieval Mediterranean." -- The Horn Book

"A first-person narrative threaded with vivid comments about smells, hazards, misfortunes, spectacles, and local legends encountered along the way. Affords glimpses of distant, exotic places, but also captures the wonder and the terror of travel at a time when living through even a short trip was considered a miracle." -- Starred, Kirkus Reviews

"Outstanding execution. The book is filled with a bazaar's worth of detail. It's no surprise that Shulevitz, a Caldecott winner, provides outstanding illustrations, but he outdoes himself here. Together with the evocative text, they capture the sweep of this mysterious and far away world." -- Starred, Booklist "Shulevitz re-creates this epic journey in a picture book of epic proportions. Meticulously researched...Shulevitz's retelling stands as a testimony to the history, wisdom, and fortitude of those medieval Jews living precariously under Christian or Muslim rule." -- Starred, School Library Journal
"Extraordinary." -- Publishers Weekly
"City-, sea-, and desertscapes in luminous emerald, sapphire, and topaz hues are richly textured in intricate layers of color, grainy black outlining, and dashing brush marks." -- The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

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