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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Warriors and Wailers, written by Sarah Tsiang with art by Martha Newbigging. Annick Press, 2012. $16.95 ages 8 and up

"You have a commodity that's easy to sell. It's light to carry, and just about everyone wants some. Leaves are plucked from the tea tree (Camellia sinensis) in spring. Workers then steam, pound, pat, and oven-roast them. They pack the final product in paper bags, which are wrapped in bamboo leaves or tree bark for shipping. You sell tea to customers at the market and to tea houses."

It's always interesting to learn about other cultures, and China was one of the most advanced societies in the ancient world. That makes this sixth book in the Jobs in History series a welcome addition to the literature for intermediate and middle grade students who often study ancient civilizations.

Most people in China at that time had little, and they worked at menial jobs. All people had a place in society, and the hierarchy went from emperor, to nobles, to scholars and civil servants, to peasant farmers, to artisans and craftspeople and finally, merchants. Everyone knew their place:

"Rank and the rules that went with it were extremely important. As a peasant, you could get into huge trouble for even looking at the emperor. By becoming a high-ranking civil servant, you could bring great honor to your family. Merchants were forbidden to dress in certain clothing or to serve more dishes at their table than the government directed."

There is lots to learn as readers pore over the pages of this informative book. They will learn the pleasures and pitfalls of many jobs from ancient culture. The text is accessible for its target audience, the illustrations add some fun, and the design makes it easy for readers to find those jobs that are most intriguing. A detailed table of contents, a time-line, text that goes from the most venerable emperor to the disparaged robber/beggar/vagabond keeps position clear, and an index that offers a return to favorite spots add to its appeal for research.

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