Monday, December 1, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: At Home in Her Tomb: Lady Dai and the Ancient Chinese Treasures of Mawangdui by Christine Liu-Perkins

When I read this, I realized that THIS is what I wanted Sky Caves to be. This isn't really fair, since they're about very different archaeological discoveries, but the topics are roughly the same - an archaeological discovery with major historical impact. This book, however, drew me in from the start and held my attention to the very end.

The introduction explains how the author first encountered "Lady Dai" and her treasures and got the inspiration to write this book.

Each chapter is introduced by a fictional recreation of an aspect of Lady Dai's life which then segues into a discussion of that aspect of the discoveries made in the tomb. So, a brief glimpse of Lady Dai caring for silkworms opens the chapter on the silk books that were discovered in the tomb. The chapters not only discuss the archaeological discoveries, they talk about their historical impact and the context of the time period. So the chapter on silk books not only talks about how the discovery of these books greatly added to knowledge of the time period and how very little from that time has survived, it also talks about the value of silk and the the subjects of the books.

Drawings, photographs, and artists' impressions fill the book, all with thorough captions. The book concludes with a reflection on the people of the time period and a brief history of the Qin and Han dynasties. There is also a time line, map, glossary, author's note (including a note about the "imagined scenes"), sources of quotations, bibliography, and index.

Verdict: While this is a challenging book, a strong reader will be drawn into the story by the excellent layout and strong writing. Even if you don't have much interest in Asia or archeology at your library, I'd still give this a chance. It's not only a fascinating look into an amazing archaeological discovery and a great introduction to a history that most American kids don't know, it's also a great introduction to excellent writing and research. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781580893701; Published 2014 by Charlesbridge; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

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