Chengli and the Silk Road Caravan

Overview

Chengli is an orphaned errand boy who lives in Chang’an China in 630 A.D. His mother has died from illness and his father is presumed dead after disappearing into the desert when Chengli was a baby.
Now thirteen, Chengli feels ready for independence. He is drawn to the desert, beckoned by the howling of strange winds and the hope of learning something about his father—who he was and how he died.

Chengli joins the caravan to travel down the ...

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Chengli and the Silk Road Caravan

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Overview

Chengli is an orphaned errand boy who lives in Chang’an China in 630 A.D. His mother has died from illness and his father is presumed dead after disappearing into the desert when Chengli was a baby.
Now thirteen, Chengli feels ready for independence. He is drawn to the desert, beckoned by the howling of strange winds and the hope of learning something about his father—who he was and how he died.

Chengli joins the caravan to travel down the merchant route known as the Silk Road, but it is a dangerous life, as his father knew. The desert is harsh, and there are many bandits, particularly drawn to Chengli’s caravan because a princess, her servants, and royal guards are traveling with them. This story invites readers to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of this fabled desert route.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This fast-paced adventure is filled with friendship, historical detail, changing scenery, and action. It will appeal to a wide range of readers." — School Library Journal
Children's Literature - Michael Jung PhD
All his life, orphan Chengli has worked as an errand boy for a wealthy silk merchant. Yet even as he spends his days caring for donkeys and working on the delivery cart, Chengli feels his spirit drawn to the desert—the same place his father, the renowned Inspector Chao, presumably died. Hungry for information about his father, Chengli joins a caravan headed down the Silk Road, through cities his father once frequented. But desert life is dangerous, and soon Chengli must contend with not only bandits and sand storms but also thieves and bullies within the caravan itself. Things get even more complicated when Chengli learns his caravan is protecting a demanding young princess, who might just become Chengli's greatest enemy—or his best friend. With so many problems, can Chengli still find a way to learn the secrets of his past? Although Kang's story is fictional, the desert and cities she describes are all real places along the historical Silk Road trade route. Here, Kang truly excels as she shares the discomfort, danger, and wonder Chengli experiences as he encounters new cultures and lands during his journey. Kang also does a good job at establishing Chengli's basically honest and trusting character—although she does gloss over a key section that shows him transforming into a more capable and canny hero. Nonetheless, the story will provide an exciting adventure for young readers and may give them some insights into the historical Silk Road as well. Reviewer: Michael Jung, PhD
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—In seventh-century China, 13-year-old Chengli heeds the call of a desert wind. He works for a silk merchant in Chang'an when he joins a caravan traveling the Silk Road to Kashgar. An orphan, he longs to see the desert where he was born and hopes to learn more about his father, an inspector murdered by bandits. Chengli makes friends on the journey, including a princess being married off to a neighboring king, her servants, and a fellow camel boy with dark secrets. He explores every town along the way, meets several other people traveling west, survives a bandit attack, and gathers scraps of information about his father. When bandits kidnap the princess, Chengli leaves the caravan to join up with Kazakh nomads and attempt a rescue. The transitory style of caravan life leads to characters appearing and disappearing just as quickly, but Chengli and his friends slowly change and grow as they near Kashgar. This fast-paced adventure is filled with friendship, historical detail, changing scenery, and action. It will appeal to a wide range of readers.—Jennifer Rothschild, Prince George's County Memorial Library System, Oxon Hill, MD
Kirkus Reviews

A 13-year-old boy joins a caravan to find someone who knew his dead father and encounters a sand sea of dangers in ancient China, 630 C.E.

A ghost wind calls Chengli to leave the Imperial City of Chang'an, which he loves, and Old Cook, who raised him, to sign on as a lowly camel boy with a trade caravan carrying silk and thousands of precious items. They trek west, leaving the protection of China's Great Wall, and skirt the edge of the fearful desert until they reach Kashgar, where hundreds of caravans come together to buy and sell everything imaginable.When a princess betrothed to marry the ruler of a nomad kingdom joins the caravan, the 2,000-mile journey becomes even more dangerous. The rigors of sands and winds aren't the only hazards Chengli faces: There are also a traitorous new friend, horse-riding thieves who abduct the princess, beatings and imprisonment. Cultural practices and beliefs are detailed, and descriptions depict the setting and era though the dialogue slips a few times into the colloquial. Three pages of historical notes serve as a glossary, but there is no map, which would be helpful. All in all, this is reminiscent of the work of Lloyd Alexander, though, sadly, not as sparkling.

Not likely to be an easy sell due to the unusual time period and slow beginning, but readers who forge ahead will enjoy an interesting adventure. (Historical fiction. 9-13)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781933718781
  • Publisher: Tanglewood Press IN
  • Publication date: 9/25/2012
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 708,211
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 5.40 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Hildi Kang is a former educator, a writer, and active traveler, having made trips by foot, bike, and llama. An early love of books and maps led to dreams of the blue-domed mosques of Samarkand and the donkey market in Kashgar. In the 1990s, the Soviet Union barriers fell, and Kang, her husband, and two companions (plus driver and interpreter), spent a month following the trade routes around the Taklamakan desert in the northwest province of China and crossing into Uzbekistan to follow the road from the cities of Khiva to Samarkand.
Friendship overpowered the lack of a shared language as they sat in a family’s courtyard shaded by a grape vine trellis, struggled to climb the sand mountains near Dunhuang, hiked in a Kazakh mountain community followed by a five-year-old on horseback, elbowed a path through the donkey market of Kashgar. As they drove eight hours on the one and only paved road between Khiva and Bukhara with nothing at all in sight except flat, barren, desolate land, she vividly imagined a camel caravan making the same trip, when suddenly the realization hit that “the trade routes” are still in use: camel caravans have become truck caravans using the same but recently paved road, and travel is still in groups, for the dangers haven’t changed. Photos preserve the trip; the story of Chengli shares it.
Closer to home, Hildi Kang is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and as an educator, she taught elementary Special Education, conducted seminars in teacher training, and served as guest lecturer in Korean studies at various universities. Her writing includes five books for elementary school teachers, an entry in Fire and Wings, the dragon anthology of Cricket Books, and two academic books on Korean history.
When not writing or traveling, she hikes, bikes, and plays cello in a local orchestra. She and her family lived many years in the town of Clarence Center near Buffalo, New York, and currently reside in Livermore, California.

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