China Through Time: A 2,500-Year Journey Along the World’s Greatest Canal

DK. Jan. 2020. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781465481740.
Gr 2-4–In this historical overview of China’s Grand Canal, Fei’s double-page spreads are not ordered by geography, chronology, dynastic lists, or time lines. This could confuse elementary readers. There is a canal start date (486 BCE) but no end date. On one page the Tang Army takes over; on the next page, the Song dynasty is founded 344 years later. Tianjin 2020 is followed by Tongzhou 1450, 1550, and 1600. The sole map of the canal (with barely visible rivers) has no section-completion dates. Readers don’t learn what technology (e.g., locks) was invented or what human cost (perhaps 1.5 million Sui dynasty lives alone) was paid. The Yuan canal extension (employing four million forced laborers) isn’t mentioned; the Ming dynasty isn’t credited for major canal reconstruction. The canal’s military, commercial, flood-control, and food-security uses are cited. A glossary is included. These wide-scale, vibrant, dynamic images of minute humans and detailed settings are enthralling. Framing captions offer information and “Where’s Waldo”-like discoveries.
VERDICT Readers who are already historically savvy, or who are drawn to lively, absorbing images of the past, will find these panoramic spreads riveting. However, elementary readers will be lost owing to a lack of coherence.

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