- Secrets of the Terra-Cotta Soldier by Ying Chang Compestine and Vinson Compestine
Ming’s archaeologist father has been sent by the Maoist government for “reeducation” in a rural area of 1972 China, and Ming suffers the scorn and ridicule of his classmates as much as the grinding poverty that comes with his father’s demotion. When farmers come to the gate with a broken terra-cotta figure they unearthed in a field and for which they expect to be paid, Ming suspects the statue has something to do with the burial of Emperor Qin, builder of the Great Wall, who is supposedly interred in the region. This suspicion is confirmed when the statue comes to life, and the reanimated soldier, Shi, works with Ming to protect the tomb of the acclaimed ruler under whom Shi was both honored in battle and sentenced to death. The Compestines have the demanding task of bringing readers up to speed simultaneously on the emperor, the archaeologically significant site of his burial, and the Cultural Revolution, and the strain of the effort shows in frequently awkward insertion of information into stiff dialogue and the relatively thin development of each of the individual themes. There’s enough humor and action, however, to keep fiction readers’ attention, and enough black and white photographs of artifacts and geographic settings to remind nonfiction fans that this is reality-based. Kids ready to move on from The Magic Tree House but still attached to the fantasy/reality format will be great candidates for this step-up title. Authors’ note and interview are included.