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Imperial China

by Joanna Cole & illustrated by Bruce Degen

Age Range: 8 - 10

Pub Date: July 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-590-10822-0
Publisher: Scholastic

Ducking beneath a parade dragon in Chinatown, Ms. Frizzle and three youngsters emerge a thousand years ago and halfway around the world. For her third excursion into the past, she takes advantage of this tailor-made teachable moment to squire her charges from rice fields to the Imperial Palace in Beijing. They hardly pause along the way for looks at silk- and tea-making, Chinese poetry and writing, inventions, the Great Wall (errantly declared to be 30,000 miles long—off by a factor of about 10, depending on what’s measured) and even how to hold chopsticks. Impoverished rice farmers are clean and smiling in Degen’s brightly colored, crisply drawn illustrations, but there are at least hints that not everyone’s a happy camper, and the pictures do add further cultural and historical detail with running panels along the bottom of each spread. Having persuaded the Emperor to lift the taxes on poor farmers, the quartet returns to our time, just in time for a Chinese New Year’s dinner—each dish labeled with its symbolic significance. The learning never stops, nor does the pace. (Picture book/nonfiction. 8-10)