The Great Voyages of Zheng He

Demi. Shen’s Books (www.shens.com), $21.95 (64p) ISBN 978-1-885008-45-9
Demi’s account of 15th-century Chinese explorer Zheng He is enlivened by images of the dazzling wealth his fleet carried back to China: “Precious ambergris used for medicine, cowrie shells, sapphires, rubies, oriental topaz, and Persian carpets filled the Forbidden City.” His 62 “Treasure Ships” were the largest the world had ever seen, but Zheng He also displayed a wealth of intellect and imagination that allowed him to embrace religious tolerance and open-mindedness—an attitude that might have had its source in his status as a Muslim in China. After a war in Ceylon, a statue he erected there “addressed Buddha, Shiva, and Allah, offering thanks for their compassion and moral virtue.” Demi’s skill as a biographer is on display, with details and context that add life and clarity. Her Persian miniature–like illustrations teach, too, showing the building of one of the fleet’s ships and a portrait of Zheng He’s burial at sea. It’s especially valuable as a portrait of a hero whose adventures were driven not by the hunger to conquer, but by a desire simply to know and be known. Ages 8–up. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/29/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
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