Zhang Heng and the Incredible Earthquake Detector

Familius. Nov. 2021. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781641701686.
Gr 3-6–In scenes that recall two-dimensional forms of the ancient art of shadow puppet, this book introduces Zhang Heng, who was goaded by envious courtiers to create the first machine to tell when and where an earthquake had struck in China. The young inventor had always enjoyed creating devices for all sorts of purposes, and came to the attention of the emperor, who invited him to come and live in the palace. The emperor’s favor caused the other courtiers to become envious of Zhang Heng and plot to get him removed. They suggested to the emperor that Zhang Heng should be able to create something that could tell where an earthquake hit as soon as it happened so that help could be dispatched. In a dream, Zhang Heng found a solution, which proved correct. An author’s note clarifies that although no one knows how Zhang Heng came to this idea, he did create the first successful seismoscope and that the details are lost to history. The illustrations in this book are charming and quaint; shadow puppets are usually depicted in black, but these are exquisitely colored.
VERDICT A whimsical look, true in spirit, of the origins of the first seismoscope, this will have most readers longing to know more about Zhang Heng.

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