Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Mysteries of Angkor Wat: exploring Cambodia's ancient temple by Richard Sobol

The Mysteries of Angkor Wat: exploring Cambodia's ancient temple
Richard Sobol wrote the text and took the photos
Candlewick Press, 2011
ISBN: 9780763641665
Book obtained from the public library.

Angkor Wat was built in 1100 CE by the Khmer people of Cambodia. It is the largest religious monument still in existence. The crumbling ruins are visited each year by millions of tourists. For years, Richard Sobol, an award winning photographer, dreamed of visiting Angkor Wat. "I wondered what mysteries waited for me inside those ancient walls."
This book is another entry in Sobol's Traveling Photographer series. (The Life of Rice: from seedling to supper, 2010)

It must be difficult to know what pictures you will need before writing the text of a book, yet the photographs in this book are spot-on. Sobol has a terrific eye for what is appealing to children. In almost every photo he not only gives us a visual of this ancient temple, but he includes children as well. Happy Cambodian children smiling from every picture. We learn that for these children, Angkor Wat is not only their playground, a place for them to explore, but also a means for income. 

"When we arrived at the entrance, the first thing I noticed was a group of children selling T-shirts, scarves, postcards, wooden flutes, and beaded bracelets to groups of tourists." 

Sobol's guide, John Teng explained "because more than two million tourists visit Angkor Wat each year, the children who live near the temple sell souvenirs in order to make a little extra money for their families."

The children also learn English at their school to aid them in communicating with these tourists. The children quizzed Sobol on the capitals of our states. "These kids remembered them all…way better than I did!"

This book is a beautiful travel log that gives some historical background on the temple. I loved how Sobol emphasized that though the carvings on the walls showed images of what everyday life was like during the time of the Khmer people, he noticed that it also reflected a contemporary Cambodia as well. It is obvious looking at the photographs that Sobol truly loves this part of the world. 

Children interested in the world's ancient wonders will find this book a good jumping off place to learn more about Cambodia.

4 Stars
(Grades 4 up)

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