Posts tagged ‘sailing’

SUMMER ANGST

Indian Summer

Written by Tracy Richardson

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Twelve year old Marcie Horton is feeling good about finishing the last day of school, but at the same time is dreading the upcoming summer. While she has always enjoyed spending time at her grandparents’ home on Lake Pappakeechee, this year is different. None of her friends will be going.

Marcie is a talented and competitive athlete, but not one of the “popular girls” at school. Her discomfort is increased when the parents of one of these girls inform her that they have just built a huge house on the lake, and invite her to spend time at their home with their daughter, Kaitlyn.

As the summer unfolds, things get more and more complicated. Kaitlyn pushes Marcie to make decisions with which she is not comfortable. Her loyalties are torn between peer pressure and family. When Kaitlyn’s father plans a development that will threaten the existing lake environment, Marcie is again forced to choose. To make matters worse, strange visions are haunting Marcie. She feels as if she in living both in the past and present. An unexpected turn of events allows her to be drawn by some mystical force to make a miraculous discovery.

In some ways the plot is predictable, yet the characters are compelling and so well-drawn that I read the book in one sitting. This book hits on so many issues that face tweens and teens. A bit of magic, history, fantasy, coming of age, environmental issues, family, and loyalty all combine to make one entertaining story With a page count of just over two hundred pages, it is a bit long for a middle grade read, but the book is a comfortable and easy read. Recommended for ages ten and above with lots of appeal for both boys and girls.

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A SENSE OF BELONGING?

The Borderlands Book One: Journey

Written by Aderyn Wood

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The Borderlands is the first book in a mystery/fantasy sci-fi series. It is a pleasant mixture of fantasy and magic combined with a coming of age story. The plot contains many twists and turns ending with what the reader would least expect.

Dale is a high school student who experiences many of the problems today’s teens face. She is a bit of a geek, bullied by the “in-crowd” at her private school whom she calls “the plastics.” Her single mother, Victoria, is always trying to impress her friends by making Dale into her own image. Dale is sensitive, and a talented artist who paints fairies, spirits, other-wordly creatures. She has also begun to experience auras. One day she meets a new boy named Rhys who has a magnetic affect on her which she is powerless to explain. Dale’s only friend is an elderly, homeless man named Gareth with whom she plans to spend the summer sailing.

Dale steals away in the sailboat; she endures one struggle after another in an effort to survive discovery and capture. A sorceress and friend of Gareth’s named Ness as well as a sprite named Esme and Gareth’s Cat will all be instrumental in her process of self-discovery and a journey to The Borderlands, which are worlds adjacent to Earth. A hierarchy of good and evil powers exists between and within these lands each alternately seeking wars or to maintain balance.

Will Dale succeed in her new role? Where and how will she find her happiness? I recommend this book series for fans of fantasy, sci-fi and mystery. Teen and young adult audiences will readily identify with the characters and their struggles.

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THE FIRST SUPERPOWER

The Great Voyages of Zheng He

Written and illustrated by Demi

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Ma Ze was born in 1371. Ma was born into a Muslim family whose ancestors came from Persia and fought with the Mongols and Genghis Khan. Ma’s father was  a general who told his son of his pilgrimage to Mecca and his military battles. But he was killed in battle when Ma was only ten so Ma was taken to be raised in the imperial palace. Ma was a brilliant scholar who appeared to be skilled at everything he tried to do. Like his father, Ma enjoyed adventure, but he especially loved the sea. When Prince Zhu Di became emperor in 1402, he spread his empire and the power of the Ming Dynasty. He expanded the borders of the Forbidden City of Beijing and strengthened the Great Wall against his enemies. He built a large army and made Ma, who was now known as Zheng Ma,  Admiral of the Navy. One year later Ma had built 525 ships, ten times the number of ships that Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama possessed, and a navy consisting of more than 30,000 sailors.

Zheng Ma set sail with a new more accurate compass, better maps and a good knowledge of astronomy. He journeyed south to Java and Sumatra reaching out to the people with a policy of peace and religious tolerance. Ma destroyed the Cantonese pirate fleet let by Chen Zuyi which resulted in free trade. Eventually thirty foreign  states would  pay tribute and acknowledge the supremacy of China. Emperor Zhu was so pleased that he ordered another voyage in 1407. When Ma found civil war between the Muslims and Buddhists, he proclaimed religious freedom for all. This was unheard of in the time of the Inquisition and Crusades. Subsequent voyages added precious metals, porcelain and more exotic animals to China as a result of forays into the Arabian peninsula and Africa. In 1417 there were so many exotic animals that the emperor built the first zoo to house them all. He was especially fond of his pet giraffe. By 1421 China could rightly be called the first world superpower. Unfortunately, later near the end of that year, lightning struck three imperial buildings creating a conflagration that killed thousands of people. Then a drought caused a grain shortage. When Zhu Gaozhi ascended the throne, he retreated within his borders and ended outside exploration. Ma was relieved of his duties, the ships rotted, and the navy disbanded.

Later in 1425 Zhu Zhangji came into power. He wanted to reestablish trade. In 1431 Ma was again put in charge of the fleet. This was the largest of all voyages. Ma made it a successful peacekeeping mission, but he died suddenly at the age of 62. No man could replace the knowledge and vision of Zheng Ma.  He envisioned a world of peace, intellectual growth, and religious tolerance in a time of war, ignorance and religious strife.

The book is beautifully illustrated by the award winning artist Demi. Adults and children eight and over will appreciate the adventure story and learning about a part of Chinese history and culture that is not widely known. This is a well written, informative and fascinating book for parents and teachers to add to their collection.

 

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