Profiles of ancient cities from around the world, intricately illustrated, highlight their mysteries.
In Laroche’s latest work of nonfiction for kids, settlements “lost” to time or conquest or that have unknown histories are described, each profile hitting on “Location,” “Who lived here,” “Why was it lost,” “How was it found,” and “What’s mysterious.” Cities such as Babylon (in present-day Iraq), Angkor Wat (in Cambodia), and Rapa Nui (now called Easter Island) are represented in impressive detail thanks to Laroche’s signature paper-relief art. Backmatter includes a timeline, placing each city in chronological order of its construction, as well as an overview of Laroche’s artistic process. Young readers who are fascinated by historical mysteries may find this an interesting jumping-off point for deeper exploration of the featured settlements; none of the profiles are extensive enough to satisfy research-project requirements or the curiosity of true history nerds. Readers will encounter language that normalizes colonization: For example, much of the information listed under Laroche’s “How was it found?” sections describe European “explorers” and archaeologists who “rediscovered” or “visited” settlements built by the Indigenous peoples of the various continents. Additionally, the profile on Angkor Wat sets a peculiarly exocitizing scene: “If you had lived in this city…you would have encountered bizarre creatures, such as monkey-like wild macaques, flying wingless snakes, as well as people perched on elephants or dressed in colored silk sarongs.”
Stunning visuals paired with some disappointing content. (Nonfiction. 5-10)