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Secrets of the Terra-Cotta Soldier Hardcover – January 7, 2014

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 7
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (January 7, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1419705407
  • ISBN-13: 978-1419705403
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #543,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 4–7—After being exiled to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution, Ming's father is in danger of losing his job when three farmers unearth a terra-cotta statue. Amazingly, the statue comes to life and tells the 13-year-old Ming about his life guarding the Great Wall from invading Mongols. At the same time, Ming is ridiculed by his classmates and teacher for not being a peasant. When he and the statue uncover a plot to rob the Emperor Qin's tomb and denounce Ming's father, they are determined to stop it. The story draws on the parallels between the ruthless leadership of Chairman Mao and Emperor Qin (comparisons frequently made at the time of the former's dictatorship) while still shying away from many of the Cultural Revolution's horrors in order to stay age-appropriate. Chinese words and characters are incorporated, sometimes awkwardly, but the history is skillfully woven into the action. The statue's backstory and the secret traps of the tomb provide ample adventure. A good match for fans of Jeff Stone's "Five Ancestors: Out of the Ashes" series (Random). Several photographs help illustrate the daily life during the 1970s and artifacts excavated from the emperor's tomb.—Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington County Public Libraries, VA

From Booklist

Mother-and-son team Ying Chang and Vinson Compestine take a historical, adventure-packed peek into Mao’s China with their young protagonist, Ming, whose archaeologist father is an ostracized member of the intellectual elite brought low by the Cultural Revolution. Ming’s classmates, as well as greedy locals, only exacerbate the isolation he feels while attending school. When some reward-seeking villagers bring him an earth god they dug up, Ming is happy to accept it on behalf of his father. He gets more than he bargained for, however, when he discovers it’s a terra-cotta soldier built to protect Emperor Qin’s ancient tomb—and he talks! Shi, the soldier, has quite the tale to tell about life under the emperor, which compares in many ways to Ming’s life under Mao’s regime. Despite the hardships, both courageous characters work to uphold their respective duties: Shi to protect the tomb and Ming to protect the cultural legacy of China’s people. With archival art, recipes, and end notes, this title is sure to be a hit in the classroom. Grades 4-7. --Courtney Jones

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Wayne S. Walker on May 5, 2014
Format: Hardcover
It is around 1974, and thirteen-year-old Ming, whose mother has died, lives in the small, remote Maoist Chinese village of Red Star. His father Chen, an intellectual who has been demoted by Mao, is an archaeologist with the museum in Xi’an. Chen believes that the tomb of the first Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huang who built the Great Wall, with its life-size terra-cotta army created to serve and protect the emperor in the afterlife, lies hidden in the hills around them, though he has no actual evidence. In fact, while the father is away pleading for more time, the Gee brothers bring in one of the soldiers for Chen to examine. While Ming awaits his father’s return, the soldier miraculously comes to life and begins telling Ming all about the history of Emperor Qin, the Great Wall, and why the terra-cotta soldiers came to be.

However, the town’s Political Officer finds out about it and hatches a plan to raid the tomb, sell the artifacts on the black market, blame Ming and his father, and condemn them to the brutal labor camps. Ming and the soldier, named Shi, escape to the mysterious tomb where Ming experiences the tomb firsthand, braves deadly traps, and witnesses the terra-cotta army in action. But will he be able to save both the terra-cotta soldiers and his father from the corrupt Political Officer and his Communist cronies? The book is illustrated with photographs of the excavated tomb with its many terra-cotta soldiers and the Great Wall, as well as of Communist Chinese village life in the 1970s during the Cultural Revolution. There are some instances of praying “to gods known and unknown,” including the kitchen god, and a few references to drinking wine.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on March 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Ying Chang Compestine made herself known to the children’s and young adult literature community through her 2007 novel REVOLUTION IS NOT A DINNER PARTY. This work of historical-fiction was based upon Compestine’s childhood in Communist China. She returns to that time period in SECRETS OF THE TERRA-COTTA SOLDIER, her newest work of historical-fiction for intermediate grade readers. However, Compestine does not return alone --- she brings her son, Vinson Compestine, along as a “travel” companion and co-author.

The main character of SECRETS OF THE TERRA-COTTA SOLIDER, 13-year-old Ming, lives with his father in a remote village in Maoist China. Ming and his father struggle to survive on his father’s meager government salary. Ming’s father, Ba Ba, is an archeologist and as he is considered an intellectual, he and his family were sent to this remote village as punishment. His father’s status has resulted in a forced isolation for Ming at school and in the village. His classmates are reprimanded for speaking to him, and Ming is friendless and lonely. Additionally, Ming’s father is on the brink of being sent to a labor camp unless he can prove that the lost tomb of Emperor Qin is located nearby.

While Ba Ba is away pleading for his job, three local farmers arrive at Ming’s house with pieces of a terra-cotta soldier. Ming believes this is exactly what is needed to prove that the location of Emperor Qin’s tomb is close to the village. However, the three farmers become impatient waiting for the return of Ming’s father to certify their find. Ming fights to hold on to the pieces of the terra-cotta solider for as long as possible, but when the village’s Political Officer realizes the potential monetary value of the discovery, he becomes involved in the dispute as well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Crossroad Reviews on May 14, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This was a cute and great book for getting children interested in Chinese History. I really liked the magical touch surrounding the Emperor's Tomb. I do think that the characters needed a little more as this book was more plot driven. But all in all it was a great book that should be read.
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