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Sunday, September 2, 2007

Another Strong Review for Adventures of the Treasure Fleet

There is Plenty to Keep Adventure-Thirsty Young Readers Happy!

Review by Aline Pereira, papertigers.org

Epic journeys into the unknown, pirates, battles, treasure, exotic animals, and more – there is plenty here to keep adventure-thirsty young readers happy: and once they have read the narrative, they can pore over the densely detailed illustrations and absorb the factual account which runs along the bottom of each page.

In 1405 Admiral Zheng He (pronounced "Jung Huh") set out with the largest fleet the world had ever known to explore “the vast 'Western Oceans.'” Over a period of 28 years, he made a total of seven voyages and not only brought back untold riches to China, but also forged diplomatic relations with both neighboring and distant lands. Ann Bowler explains in her author’s note at the beginning how she has combined Zheng He’s seven voyages into one for the purpose of this narrative. By adopting the dual format of the book, she is able both to tell a coherent story and retain the story’s historical essence.

Bowler’s retelling of the story is lively and expressive – and it is noteworthy that there is some form of dialogue on every page, which helps to make it immensely readable for young people. The factual account, meanwhile, is related in slightly more formal tones but is so densely packed with interesting facts that again, young readers will want to keep the pages turning. From the first page, where we see the enormity of the ships being built; hear the exhortations of the Emperor to “Work faster men! The Treasure Ships must sail by winter!” and find out that Zheng He is concerned that he might not be able to control such gigantic ships, we are caught up in the action. The factual account enhances this by explaining some of the historical background to the building of the fleet and adding essential details like dragon eyes being “painted on the bow of each ship so that it could “see” where it was going.”

Throughout the book, Lak-Khee Tay-Audouard’s softly shaded illustrations demonstrate a quirky but effective depiction of perspective. They complement the writing beautifully and paradoxically (because they are themselves so packed with detail) allow the imagination to fly, or rather sail, alongside Admiral Zheng He. Between them, Bowler and Tay-Adouard have produced a treasure indeed.
Explore the world in 1405, with treasures ships from China. On these epic voyages, the fleet journeyed to Southeast Asia, India, Saudi Arabia, Africa and back, fighting pirates, trading silks for spices, weathering violent storms, returning home with giraffes, lions, leopards, medicines, rare jewels, ivory, gold and silver. Enchanting illustrations express the wonder and excitement of new lands. www.travelforkids.com

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