Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com
Allen and Unwin (2008).
Do you know why the opening time for the Beijing Olympics was set at 8.08 pm on 8 August 2008? Or what are the secrets guarded by the silent terracotta army inside the First Chinese Emperor's tomb? This book will introduce you to the most famous people and events in China during the last 2200 years. Meet the emperor who loved a woman too much, and the admiral whose fleet was so big it blocked out the sun. Discover the meaning of dragons, and why you should never give a Chinese man a green hat. Be amazed at China's many inventions, from silk, paper, printing and porcelain to crossbows, stirrups, matches, cast iron, steel and gunpowder.
I lived in China for six months in 2003 and became fascinated by the country and its people. So I very much enjoyed China: Land of Dragons and Emperors, and I think kids will appreciate it too. Though packed with fascinating facts, it doesn't have the off-putting appearance of densely written text. Instead, it's well set-out, with plenty of white space interspersed with text boxes, maps, black and white illustrations, and photographs.
This non-fiction book can be read in a linear way, first looking at myth, then moving through recorded history. Or it can be dipped into via the contents and index as a reference book. Regardless of the reading method employed, Yen Mah knows how to speak to kids. There are many places where she shows this skill, like the section on Chinese language, where she tells kids exactly what not to say to a Chinese person in Mandarin! (Good one, Adeline.)
I believe China: Land of Dragons and Emperors would make a great addition to a Stage 3 classroom, or the school library. It gives students from Year 5/6 and beyond the opportunity to delve into a truly fascinating and ancient culture.
Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.