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Stranger on the Silk Road: A Story of Ancient China
Stranger on the Silk Road: A Story of Ancient China
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Supported by myON Reviewed Titles Print Book Supported by Capstone Interactive Accelerated Reader

Stranger on the Silk Road: A Story of Ancient China

Song Sun likes to talk but never listens. After talking too much to a stranger, Song Sun accidentally gives away the Chinese secret of silkmaking. Will Song Sun be able to save the secret?

GenreHistorical Fiction
Reading LevelGrades 2-4
Interest LevelGrades 2-4
Lexile Level460L
ATOS Level3.4
AR Points0.5
AR Quiz #122726
PublisherPicture Window Books
Page Dimensions5 1/4" x 8"
Page Count64
BindingReinforced Library Binding
List Price: $21.32 School/Library Price
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School Library Journal - Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MD

"Sassy, graphic-novel-style illustrations give these great little first chapter books extra appeal. Each one tells its story—that of an arrogant artist's apprentice (Painting), a fisherboy with low self-esteem (Dragon), the garrulous daughter of a wealthy silk merchant (Silk Road), and an outspoken orphan girl (Terracotta Girl)—against the backdrop of some aspect of Chinese culture. Thus readers learn about scroll painting, jiao di wrestling, the silk trade, and Emperor Qin's terracotta soldiers. While this is by no means an unusual formula, it is one that is seldom seen in first chapter books, and rarely executed with such verve: the characters learn their lessons (often with help from the words of Confucius) and children learn about China without ever feeling hit over the head. Wonderful introductions to historical fiction." - School Library Journal

February 1, 2009

Children's Literature Comprehensive Database - Susan Treadway, M.Ed

"The “Read-it! Chapter Books: Historical Tales” series relates fictional stories that include details about ancient Chinese culture. Grunderson writes in the voice of Song Sun in this first-person account about her difficult decision to redeem a grave mistake by traveling for days to locate an imposter. Set in 167 B.C. during the Han Dynasty, the story begins when a stranger approaches Sun and her little sister Song Ki as they travel the Silk Road to take their father’s exquisite fabrics to market. Although Sun knows Confucius’ famous saying about speaking few words, she cannot keep from over-explaining her father’s silk merchant business. The stranger asks questions even though there are some rather obvious signs that he is not Chinese. Still, she divulges many details. After all, she’s proud of her father’s success, and she greatly enjoys having an audience other than her sister. What will happen now that Sun told the stranger China’s silk secret? How can she possibly tell her father what she has done? After confronting the imposter with remorse, Sun embarks on a bold plan--without saying a single word. The villagers follow her one by one to discover a most unlikely and amazing result. At last, they reach the Great Wall of China where she nabs the thief, uncovers his disguise and brings him back to the village. To Sun’s astonishment, her father allows the stranger to remain with them to learn the silk business. As his punishment, he cannot return to his native country. Thus, the words of Confucius are more meaningful to Song Sun as the nameless stranger becomes a hard worker within her family. Modern students reading this series learn character lessons which still apply today in the form of captivating fables from bygone days. Caroline Hu’s black line drawings bring ancient China to life. An introduction, afterword, brief glossary, and list of web-based resources help readers integrate instruction and access more information about the culture." - Children's Literature Comprehensive Database

January 1, 2009 - Lynette Eyb

"Jessica Gunderson has written a swathe of children’s titles for Picture Window Books, most of them set in the ancient worlds of India and China. They form Historical Tales, an innovative and intelligent series designed to introduce children (and their imaginations) to ancient civilisations. This is one of her Chinese tales, and it’s a worthy addition to the series. The book opens, like most of the Historical Tales stories, with a useful ‘words to know’ section that provides the definitions of or descriptions for such things as the Great Wall of China, the Han Dynasty, the Silk Road and Confucius. Putting these names in historical context is a huge improvement on the ‘words to know’ section in previous books, such as The Horse on the Hill. That book gives the dictionary definitions for words such as ‘chariot’, ‘surrender’ and ‘conquer’, and upon reading it, I couldn’t help but wonder whether a child old enough to understand issues surrounding sacrificial ceremonies would not be old enough to already know these words (or at least be inquisitive enough to ask an adult if not). So the move towards more historical background here is a good one. There is also an introduction, told through the eyes of the central character and narrator, Song Sun. In it, she sets the tone for the story, which is a loose moral lesson based on these words of Confucius: “Speak enough to make the point, then leave it at that.” Song Sun Shoots Her Mouth Off We are in Han Dynasty, in 167BC, and Song Sun, as the introduction suggests, talks too much – much, too much. It’s not giving anything away to report that in the early chapters of the book, she encounters a stranger on the silk road (hence the title), to whom she unwittingly unveils the secret of Chinese silk production. The man turns out to be a foreigner masquerading as a Chinese, and his newfound knowledge of silk production foreshadows dire conseqences for Song Sun. It not only threatens the livelihood of her family – her father is a wealthy silk merchant who built his fortune after years of toil in the fields – but also the future of the entire Chinese silk industry. What follows is Song Sun’s desperate attempt to make amends for her indiscretion, and her efforts to rescue China from financial destruction and widespread embarrassment. Like all the books in the Historical Tales series – and especially those by Gunderson – the book can be read on several levels and appreciated by children of varying ages (though intended for kids aged 9-12). The story explores issues such as the Chinese tradition of binding young girls’ feet, the secrets of how silk was produced in ancient China, the importance of forgiveness, and how new and surprising friendships can result from the most unusual of circumstances. The Added Extras Each page is adorned with brushed pen and ink illustrations by Caroline Hu, an artist used across the Historical Tales series. An afterword goes into more detail about the Silk Roads and their importance as trading routes. There is an explanation of how for thousands of years China kept to itself the secrets of silk making, finally exporting them with successive generations of Chinese immigrants. We learn as well that silk was just one important Chinese invention (others included gunpowder, tea and magnetic compasses). Quibbles include the lack of an apostrophe in Xi’an, and a map that would benefit from the addition of more place names – the map in Stories From The Silk Road by Barefoot Books is many times more useful. On the last page, the book (like all others in the series) promotes FactHound, an online resource to help kids find out more about the issues raised in the story. This is a great idea, and goes some way to ensuring books remain relevant in the internet age. However this tool isn’t as good or as user-friendly (or as interesting or as fun) as a similar offering by British children’s publisher Usborne. On the whole, The Stranger on the Silk Road is an interesti" -

August 11, 2009

Jessica Gunderson

Jessica Gunderson

Jessica Gunderson grew up in North Dakota and currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. She is the author of numerous books for young readers, all written in her very messy office.

Go to the Author’s Page →