LAND OF YESTERDAY, LAND OF TOMORROW

DISCOVERING CHINESE CENTRAL ASIA

North of Tibet, bordering on Pakistan and Afghanistan, lies Xinjiang: a vast 20% of China's area, comprised of the terrible Taklamakan Desert (home to untapped petroleum and China's nuclear tests) ringed with oases fed by mountain snows. Through two valleys north and south of the desert ran the most difficult portion of the medieval Silk Road from Xian in central China to Damascus; today, irrigation tunnels from the surrounding mountains—some in use for 500 years—supplement local water to grow prized fruits and vegetables, supporting 1% of China's total population—mostly the predominant Uighurs; nomadic Kazakhs, who crossed the long border with the USSR in the 30's; and more recently arrived Han Chinese settlers from the east. The Conklins (Paul took his sons on this Smithsonian- sponsored expedition as a college graduation gift) traveled by train from Xian through Xinjiang, photographing the forbidding desert, the friendly people, and the colorful oasis culture. Ashabranner (who did not go along) sets the journey in historical and cultural context, enlivening his account with direct quotes and the Conklins' personal experiences. Though it lacks the immediacy of a firsthand account, his narrative is informative and intelligent. The photos, on almost every spread, are excellent; like the text, they leave the reader thirsting to know more about this fascinating, little-known area. Bibliography; index. (Nonfiction. 10+)

Pub Date: May 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-525-65086-5

Page Count: 84

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1992

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The inevitable go-to for Percy’s legions of fans who want the stories behind his stories.

PERCY JACKSON'S GREEK GODS

Percy Jackson takes a break from adventuring to serve up the Greek gods like flapjacks at a church breakfast.

Percy is on form as he debriefs readers concerning Chaos, Gaea, Ouranos and Pontus, Dionysus, Ariadne and Persephone, all in his dude’s patter: “He’d forgotten how beautiful Gaea could be when she wasn’t all yelling up in his face.” Here they are, all 12 Olympians, plus many various offspring and associates: the gold standard of dysfunctional families, whom Percy plays like a lute, sometimes lyrically, sometimes with a more sardonic air. Percy’s gift, which is no great secret, is to breathe new life into the gods. Closest attention is paid to the Olympians, but Riordan has a sure touch when it comes to fitting much into a small space—as does Rocco’s artwork, which smokes and writhes on the page as if hit by lightning—so readers will also meet Makaria, “goddess of blessed peaceful deaths,” and the Theban Teiresias, who accidentally sees Athena bathing. She blinds him but also gives him the ability to understand the language of birds. The atmosphere crackles and then dissolves, again and again: “He could even send the Furies after living people if they committed a truly horrific crime—like killing a family member, desecrating a temple, or singing Journey songs on karaoke night.”

The inevitable go-to for Percy’s legions of fans who want the stories behind his stories. (Mythology. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-8364-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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IQBAL

This profoundly moving story is all the more impressive because of its basis in fact. Although the story is fictionalized, its most harrowing aspects are true: “Today, more than two hundred million children between the ages of five and seventeen are ‘economically active’ in the world.” Iqbal Masih, a real boy, was murdered at age 13. His killers have never been found, but it’s believed that a cartel of ruthless people overseeing the carpet industry, the “Carpet Mafia,” killed him. The carpet business in Pakistan is the backdrop for the story of a young Pakistani girl in indentured servitude to a factory owner, who also “owned” the bonds of 14 children, indentured by their own families for sorely needed money. Fatima’s first-person narrative grips from the beginning and inspires with every increment of pride and resistance the defiant Iqbal instills in his fellow workers. Although he was murdered for his efforts, Iqbal’s life was not in vain; the accounts here of children who were liberated through his and activist adults’ efforts will move readers for years to come. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-689-85445-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2003

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