A trip through time along China’s Grand Canal.
As the longest and oldest canal in the world, the Grand Canal waterway stretches 1,115 miles (1,794 km). Traveling in time and space from construction in 486 B.C.E. in Yangzhou to the “ever-growing city” of Tianjin in 2020 C.E., readers are invited to “explore this ancient wonder [and] follow the fortunes of the canal and the people that lived along it, through good times and bad.” Panoramic landscape paintings span oversized double-page spreads. The mostly consistent perspective helps highlight that which stays similar and that which changes and makes for engaging page turns. Du’s detailed illustrations bring to life the bustle of canal cities, capturing pivotal moments in time. Readers will witness a military coup in Kaifeng (960 C.E.) on a wintry night lit by firelight as well as a “busy port...teeming with life” on a moonlit midnight at the Maple Bridge night fair in Suzhou (760 C.E.). Although it provides a brief historical overview, the journey along the canal is not linear geographically nor chronologically. Callout images to seek out and accompanying bite-sized facts to take in border each spread and guide the eye, however. Readers are invited to spot a “baby glimpsing the outside world for the first time,” a reservoir controlled by a sluice gate, a builder precariously “balancing on a unsteady plank,” and travelers burning incense for good luck. Lihua, a “street-smart, time-traveling cat” hidden in each spread, adds another propulsive layer.
Part informational text, part activity book, this brief but intricately illustrated journey should spark readers’ curiosity. (quiz, glossary) (Informational picture book. 7-10)