Warriors and Wailers: One Hundred Ancient Chinese Jobs You May Have Relished or Reviled
Sarah Tsiang, author
Martha Newbigging, illustrator
Annick Press
2012

Warriors and Wailers is a well-organized compendium of just exactly what it says: one hundred ancient Chinese jobs you may have relished or reviled. You have your standard imperial jobs, some peasant jobs, a host of civil service type jobs, jobs for men or women, jobs for which you are trained, jobs for which you have to be born in the right family, and so forth.

I found the information to be well presented. I think the reading level is just fine for middle grades, and I think there are some interesting jobs presented that will hold students’ interest. However, some of the jobs are a bit sketchy. I don’t know if the author is trying to give equal treatment to men and women, or if she is trying to scrounge up 100 jobs…but Imperial Consort and similar such jobs might make this book chosen by parents less often. Certainly there were some women warriors and scholars, but these were few and far between. In fairness, for jobs such as Imperial Consort, the author is discreet–saying things along the lines of a girl needs to be pretty, will keep the Emperor company, and/or needs to provide a son.

The weakest point in the book is the illustration style–many of the cartoonish characters don’t even look Chinese…which is kinda the point, isn’t it? After all, this is a book about ancient Chinese jobs. I found them distracting and unhelpful. It’s a shame because the right illustrations would have really made a difference.

All in all, this is a book that will no doubt be a fun extra Social Studies resource for classrooms and school libraries; I don’t think kids are going to pick it up to read just for fun.

ARC from netgalley; cover image from AnnickPress

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