PRISONERS OF THE SCRAMBLING DRAGON by F. N. Monjo

PRISONERS OF THE SCRAMBLING DRAGON

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The ins and outs of this opium smuggling business"" and other secrets of the China trade--as gleaned by 13-year-old cabin boy Sam Dwight and his big, indomitable black pal Hawk Hollings, who find themselves trussed up in the bottom of a smugglers' skiff (a ""scrambling dragon"") after their ship, the Orient Venture, has been boarded by pirates intercepting the smugglers. That, and the pair's ultimate escape and reunion with the Orient Venture, constitute the story per se; almost all the rest is historical matter, largely recapped in the afterword: the few items that the haughty Chinese will buy from ""foreign devils"" (silver, ginseng root, furs, sandalwood, and opium); why American traders have to get opium from far-off Turkey rather than near-by India (i.e., the British connection); the official ban on the importation of opium, how it's evaded and flouted; etcetera. None of this is uninteresting and some of it--like the origin of pidgin' English (because Chinese were forbidden to learn Western languages, and Westerners blocked from learning Chinese)--is definitely enlightening. But all of it is definitely for the history-minded too--who, taking this for the quite young adventure story it appears to be, may miss it altogether. (The illustrations, as it happens, are uninviting on any score.)

Pub Date: March 3rd, 1980
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston