A Single Pebble: A Story of the Silk Road

Overview

In 9th century China, a little girl sends a small jade pebble to travel with her father along the Silk Road. The pebble passes from his hand all the way to the Republic of Venice, the end of the Silk Road, where a boy cherishes it and sees the value of this gift from a girl at the end of the road.
 
A Neal Porter Book

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Overview

In 9th century China, a little girl sends a small jade pebble to travel with her father along the Silk Road. The pebble passes from his hand all the way to the Republic of Venice, the end of the Silk Road, where a boy cherishes it and sees the value of this gift from a girl at the end of the road.
 
A Neal Porter Book

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/23/2013
In a sweet-natured story set over two years during the ninth century, Christensen (I, Galileo) follows a small jade pebble along the length of the Silk Road, from China to Italy. The pebble is initially given to a silk merchant by his daughter, Mei, who isn’t allowed to accompany her father. “At least my pebble can go,” Mei says. “A gift for a child at the end of the road.” Mei’s father isn’t traveling the road’s entire length, so he passes the pebble to a Buddhist monk, who gives it to a sandalwood trader heading farther west, and so on, with additional small treasures (a flute, a cinnamon stick) accumulating along with the pebble. Although Mei (understandably) never finds out if her pebble has reached its destination, readers know the truth, and are also privy to a neat reciprocal journey involving a piece of blue glass. Although the characterizations are on the light side, Christen-sen’s atmospheric paintings and prose provide lively snapshots of life on the Silk Road; endnotes include additional historical information. Ages 3–7. Agent: Marcia Wernick, Wernick & Pratt. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

"With illustrations that echo, at turns, the distinct traditions of Chinese, Islamic and European art, Ms. Christensen brings a sense of affable generosity to the dynamic interplay of cultures that formed the original information superhighway."--The Wall Street Journal

"Luminous artwork is the highlight of this child’s introduction to the Silk Road." -- Kirkus Reviews
 
"Christensen’s atmospheric paintings and prose provide lively snapshots of life on the Silk Road."--Publishers Weekly
 

"The colorful illustrations reflect the customs and culture of each stop on the trade route, and the simple text gives context clues for children unfamiliar with the setting and historical period." -- School Library Journal

Children's Literature - Mary Quattlebaum
Celebrate the New Year with a historic journey on the Silk Road. In 850 A.D., Mei starts a jade pebble on a year-long trip from her home in China. The little rock is passed from Mei’s silk merchant father to a Buddhist monk in Turfan to a sandalwood trader in Kashgar to an acrobatic family in Samarkand to a wily thief in Baghad. It is even captured by a pirate in Antioch! Each traveler emphasizes that the pebble is a “gift for a child,” from the land where the sun rises. When the pirate brings the green pebble to his son, Tomasso, in a town close to Venice, the blue glass of their Italian church subtly foreshadows the blue glass bead that Mei has received, back in China, from her returning father. Through striking images in words and art, acclaimed author/illustrator Bonnie Christensen beautifully evokes the changing landscape and cultures. An author’s note, map, and bibliography provide additional intriguing material. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum; Ages 4 to 7.
Children's Literature - Jean Boreen
In the year 850 AD, Mei, a young Chinese girl, gives her silk-trader father a jade pebble to take with him on his trip along part of the Silk Road; as much as she wished she could accompany her father and share his adventures along the road, she tells him that she will settle for her pebble going with him in hopes that it will somehow become a gift “for a child at the end of the road. “ Thanks to a Buddhist monk in Turfan, a sandalwood trader in Kashgar, a family of performing acrobats in Samarkand, a thief in Baghdad, and a pirate in Antioch, the jade pebble, as well as some additional items representative of the cities and cultures along the way, end up in the hands of a little boy in Torcello, Italy. The illustrations for this book—rendered in watercolor with pen and pencil—are appropriate to the text and help to underscore the different cultures and people who would have been on the Silk Road during the time period. The author’s additional information regarding the history of the Silk Road, text and on-line resources, and a map of the Silk Road strengthen the prospects for additional research into this interesting historical entity. Reviewer: Jean Boreen, Ph.D.; Ages 8 to 12.
School Library Journal
10/01/2013
Gr 1–4—This lovely story traces a pebble's journey on the Silk Road. Mei lives near Chang'an (Xi'an), China, in AD 850. As her father, a silk trader, sets off on his route, she is denied the opportunity to go along since she has to care for the silk worms. Instead, she gives him a jade pebble with the request to give it to a child at the end of the road. Mei's father takes the pebble to Turfan (Turpan), where he passes it to a Buddhist monk. The monk pairs a flute with the gift and takes it to Kashgar. Readers will see other items added to the pebble as it passes from traveler to traveler. Finally, the gifts are stolen by a pirate in Antioch, who takes them to his son in Torcello, Italy. Although many small treasures accompany it, the jade rock is the pirate's son's favorite. At the story's conclusion Mei does not know the details of the pebble's journey, but she is hopeful that one day she, too, will travel the Silk Road. The different settings and characters are woven together to create a wonderful tale. The colorful illustrations reflect the customs and culture of each stop on the trade route, and the simple text gives context clues for children unfamiliar with the setting and historical period. An endnote and detailed maps on the endpapers give extensive background information on the subject.—Erica Thorsen Payne, Meriwether Lewis Elementary School, Charlottesville, VA
Kirkus Reviews
As a pebble that is "cool like the stream where I found it" travels the length of the Silk Road from China to Italy, exquisite, expressive artwork counterbalances a timeworn plot. Mei, a young girl living in China in the ninth century, would like to travel the Silk Road. Instead, she must content herself with persuading her silk-merchant father to start her chosen gift of a pebble on a trip beyond his stretch of travel to "a child at the end of the road." Tommaso, whose father is a kindly pirate, is the eventual recipient of the pebble and other gifts accumulated from, among others, a monk and a thief during the pebble's journey. Preschoolers will enjoy the repetition of the phrase that concludes each transfer of the pebble, variations on "a gift from a girl…in the land where the sun rises." There is gentle reciprocity in the piece of glass that Mei receives from Italy, but why, after a mere two years, does the story end with Mei's father inexplicably deciding that Mei might, after all, make that dangerous journey next time? The richly detailed, lavishly colored watercolors authentically introduce diversity and history, but the first and final pages read rather like a nod-to-feminism afterthought. Facts embedded in the text are supplemented by a generous addendum. Luminous artwork is the highlight of this child's introduction to the Silk Road. (maps, author's note, bibliography) (Picture book. 3-6)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596437159
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2013
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 337,388
  • Age range: 3 - 7 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.60 (w) x 11.20 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Bonnie Christensen is the author and illustrator of the Schneider Family Book Award winner Django and Woodie Guthrie: Poet of the people, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book and a New York Times Notable Book. Most recently, she created Plant a Little Seed, of which School Library Journal said the language is poetic and evocative and the illustrations are a visual treat. She lives in Wilson, North Carolina.

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