Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Yolen and Shannon, previously paired for the rollicking Ballad of the Pirate Queens, turn solemn in this verse-and-picture tour of sacred places around the world. Visiting 12 sites, the book attempts, with mixed results, an empathetic introduction to a variety of beliefs and practices from past and present religions. Subjects range from the ambiguous oracle of Delphi, speaking truth "from the perfumed cave,/ from the earth's dark center,/ from the navel of the world," to the Shinto shrine Itsukushima. While she relies heavily on repetition, Yolen's approaches vary: "Wailing Wall" reflects a contemporary view of Jerusalem; "Easter Island" asks who made the great carved heads; "Cathedrals" echoes the rhythms of nursery rhymes ("This is the crypt,/ This the nave,/ This the apse,/ These the graves"). Shannon's paintings more successfully capture different moods, as in a brooding and mist-shrouded Stonehenge, a glowing image of a stained glass window or a night view of Uluru (Ayers Rock) with animal forms from the Dreamtime creeping up its side. A bookend poem, "Hush," calls for respect and on its second appearance grandly but unconvincingly asserts that "Since you have been here,/ truth has been shaped,/ truth has been shifted,/ truth has been shown in its many forms." Ages 6-12. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
Be mindful of dreams when you read this book. "Someone's God has stepped here, slept here, knelt here, dwelt here, spoken here of life, of death, of holy things." From Delphi to Four Corners, from the Bo Tree to the Wailing Wall, from Ganga to Uluru of the dreamtime, Jane Yolen's lovely words lead us gently to hallowed ground, combining with Shannon's striking illustrations to transport the reader to some of the holiest places on our planet. This book evokes the sense of reaching back in time that such places engender. It is a creative addition to materials on world religions. Only the Four Corners illustration seems off key, lacking the juxtaposition of red rock and saltbush so characteristic of this piece of North American landscape that is sacred to the Navajo, Hopi, Ute and others. Still, to borrow Yolen's words, "there are...many cries between the arrow and its prey," and this is a fine beginning look at the multiple facets of divinity that people have found in these sacred places.
Children's Literature - Beverly Kobrin
Among Ms. Yolen's twelve Sacred Places are enigmatic Easter Island, where "eyes of stone stare unblinking in the sun's fierce glare," and the Bo Tree, "under [whose] branches/the enlightened rest." The illustrations, acrylics by David Shannon exemplify the synergy between gifted writer and artist.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-Holy in the distant past (Delphi), or still sacred today (Mecca), the sites of Yolen's poetic tributes include some of the world's most celebrated spiritual and cultural power centers. The poems evoke, rather than describe, their subjects, with brief additional information on each provided in an appendix. Nevertheless, many of the references to places, gods, and concepts require further research for comprehension. Of the 12 sites chosen, one is in the U.S., one in Honduras, two each in the Middle East and the Pacific, and three each in Asia and Europe. Since one of the "places" in Europe is the vast category "cathedrals," Europeans appear disproportionately blessed with sacred sites. An otherwise helpful map unavoidably highlights the utter absence of sacred places in Africa and South America. The familiar "Ayers Rock" is rightly called Uluru, but Jerusalem's Western Wall is still tagged "Wailing Wall" here. Shannon's paintings are compelling. Recognizably realistic, they are nevertheless given expressionistic emphasis, from point-of-view, composition, coloring, or simplification of form, to suggest their spiritual dimension. Browsers may be attracted by the pictures, and if the text is too allusive for some readers, others may accept the mysteries as part of the allure of the sacred.Patricia (Dooley) Lothrop Green, St. George's School, Newport, RI