From School Library Journal
Grade 2–6—This colorful travelogue recounts the Lewins' trip to Mongolia to experience the annual summer celebration Naadam, in particular the horse-racing competition. It focuses on young Tamir as he prepares for and participates in the event. Information about Mongolian culture and the holiday's traditions are interspersed with an account of the competition. An introduction provides brief background, and unfamiliar terms are explained in context and in the glossary. Betsy Lewin's lively line-and-wash cartoon sketches and spot drawings are intermingled with Ted Lewin's sweeping watercolor paintings, which make effective use of light and rich color to portray both the intensity of the competition and the pageantry of the celebration. For the most part, the writing is tight and fast-paced, reflecting the event it describes. At other times, it becomes flowery and chatty. While perhaps not an essential purchase, the book provides a dynamic view of a culture rarely portrayed in children's books and an event that is sure to interest many young readers.—Heide Piehler, Shorewood Public Library, WI
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*Starred Review* The Lewins follow travelogue titles such as Top to Bottom Down Under (2005) with another picture-book chronicle of international adventure. This time, they visit Mongolia, where they witnessed the Naadam festival—a celebration that brings together nomadic tribes for sports competitions. The most popular events are the horse races featuring child jockeys who guide their “half-wild” steeds through a long, arduous course. In simple, captivating language, the Lewins describe their long journey to the horse trainers’ camp, where they connect with a skilled nine-year-old jockey, Tamir, and his family, and learn about local customs—from the specifics of Mongolian horse wrangling to staple foods, such as mare’s milk. Then the festival begins, and the Lewins give a heart-pounding, moment-by-moment account of Tamir’s race: “The crowd strains forward. The pounding of hooves grows louder . . . The stallions are at full gallop.” Throughout, clearly presented cultural specifics mix with vivid sensory perceptions that will help children imagine themselves on the windy steppes, but it’s the color-washed sketches and beautiful full-page spreads of the thundering horses and jubilant festivalgoers that will truly capture readers’ attention and draw them into this handsome, heartfelt glimpse of a rarely featured culture. Children, and teachers, seeking more information will appreciate the closing spreads, which include additional cultural commentary and a glossary. Grades 2-5. --Gillian Engberg