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Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Chinese Thought of It, written by Ting-xing Ye. Annick Press, 2009. $9.95 ages 9 and up

"I thought I knew a lot about China's past and present. It wasn't until I sat down to write this book that I realized I had much more to learn. As I got deeper into my research, reading books and checking Internet resources, I grew more and more excited about my findings. I am glad I have the chance to share with you what I have learned. I hope this book will be the beginning of your journey of discovery."

This is the third in a very fine series published by Annick Press about innovations and technologies that have been developed for the world's use. The author explains that her research led her to memories of personal experiences with some of the inventions she shares with her readers. Many were developed in ancient China and are still used today.

She begins with a map of modern China, its place on the Asian continent and its geographical makeup. She introduces a timeline that begins with the Shang Dynasty and follows through to the Republic of China, that is today. As she explores a variety of topics, she lists those inventions which were used to make life easier and more productive for China's population. She includes farming, metal work, transportation, canals and bridges, weapons, paper and printing, silk, everyday innovations, food, health, games and sports. It is quite a list and equally impressive to learn of the many inventions attributed to the Chinese.

I like the design, which uses single text boxes to highlight each invention. These text boxes share space with additional information, numerous photographs and detailed illustrations. The dominant colors are red, gold and yellow...all colors we associate with Chinese culture. It informs readers who might know little of China, while entertaining them as well. More than sixty ideas are presented and they show us the cultural, scientific and historical impact of China on the world.

Some will be familiar (gunpowder and silk) while others will surprise. Stirrups made getting on a horse much easier, and also staying on. What would we do without toilet paper, first introduced in China in the 6th century? Porcelain, matches, the folding umbrella and the toothbrush are all thanks to Chinese innovators. I thank them each day for green tea and noodles, but not so much for tofu and chopsticks (I'm told I just need more practice with both).

Reading this book will certainly increase your knowledge about the contributions that China has made. I hope it also encourages you to continue your study of this amazing country, its people and history. Again, the author provides a list for further reading, an index and a table of contents...all most useful as you read this engaging and informative addition to the 'Thought of It' series.

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