On the Run in Ancient China

illus. by Bill Slavin. 56p. further reading. index. Kids Can. May 2019. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781525301520.
Gr 3–7—Bailey and Slavin's visually engaging book strikes the right balance between the trials of the time-warped Binkerton siblings and fun historical facts. Each page is divided into two sections. At the top, the illustrated adventures of the three Binkertons prevail. Twins Emma and Josh fumble their way through the daily duties of the working class, while young Libby entertains the elite. Along the bottom, readers find pages of the guidebook the twins use to navigate society. As Bailey points out, the Chinese empire was "the longest continuous empire in world history," lasting two millennia. With such a massive time frame, it is tempting to think that the representations of this ancient culture lack specificity. The opening gambit–Libby's desire for fried noodles–risks conflating "Ancient Chinese" with "Chinese" or even "North American Chinese." But Bailey tracks historical change, such as the evolution of the Great Wall. Bailey also concertedly challenges Eurocentric narratives of civilization. The Binkertons are constantly confronted with the fact that they are seen as "barbarians." Despite their protests to the contrary, the book reveals how the printing press, paper, and gunpowder were all invented by the ancient Chinese. After the Binkertons arrive safely in the present day, the afterword provides more historical context, maps, and a list of resources.
VERDICT This action-packed illustrated adventure will teach and delight a wide range of readers about ancient China.

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