Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Chengli and the Silk Road Caravan by Hildi Kang

Chinese protagonists in children's books are like agate hunting on Lake Superior's shorelines. They are hard to spot among all the other rocks. This new addition will help add to the diverse books we have and fill a need for Asian characters that young readers can relate to in our school. Chengli is an orphan who gets permission from his adoptive parent to work on a caravan that is traveling the silk road for trading. The goal of the boy is to find out what happened to his father who disappeared on the silk road when he was an infant. His mother died when he was too little to get answers from her. The journey is full of hardship, dangers, and adventures as Chengli discovers what it means to grow up and discover his strengths.

The master that runs the caravan is a fair man that thirteen-year-old Chengli respects. The caravan is forced by the Emperor to have a child-princess accompany them on their journey. She is to be delivered to her husband-to-be. She reminds me of mooncakes that look gorgeous on the outside, but once you sink your teeth into them the filling might be shredded pork, fish, eggs, or sweet red beans. They are unexpected and not always pleasing to taste, but I've developed a taste for some of them over the years. The princess has tantrums most of the trip, threatens to chop off heads like a dumpling-head, and is superior to everyone around her. The dangers of the road and a kidnapping force her to mature and see her servants as human beings.

The plot and character development have some holes, especially at the end when Chengli describes the master as being like a father to him and he seems to have feelings for the princess. He has respect for the master but not enough to tell him about his moral dilemma or treat him like a father. His adoptive parent he thinks of more throughout the story than the master. The princess and him are just friends. He rescues her and cares about her but she only calls him, "Skinny Boy" or "Camel Boy," giving no indication that she is interested in him. The end made it look romantic and it should have just focused on friendship to stay in line with the character development. There is plenty of action and that will draw readers into the story the most.

The character of Fourth Brother and his actions are never really brought to full light. His last action seemed too vicious for the relationship. His character becomes flat at the end of the story. Chengli is interesting but doesn't have many unique traits that make him memorable. He's a nice kid and its a nice story, but it will be a grain of sand in my constantly shifting sand-dune-pile-memory of forgotten books.

3 Smileys

No comments:

Post a Comment