Allison's Book Bag

A Single Pebble by Bonnie Christensen

Posted on: April 9, 2014

A Single Pebble by Bonnie Christensen is a sweet story with pleasant illustrations and ample educational information. Subtitled “A Story of the Silk Road,” Christensen’s picture book informs its readers of that famous trade route which connected Asia and Europe hundreds of years ago through an engaging tale of a young Chinese girl named Mei.

Three years before the writing of A Single Pebble, Christensen received a request from the International Museum of Peace and Solidarity in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Some quick research revealed to Christensen that Samarkand was a stop along the trading routes of the Silk Road. After a few more hours of reading, Christensen writes in A Note from the Author, not only had the Silk Road stolen her heart but a story had started to evolve.

The result is a heart-warming tale about Mei who wants to follow her father to market. When he tells Mei, her job is to stay home and care for their silk worms, she asks him to instead take her pebble with him as a “gift for a child at the end of the road”. Although he advise her that he doesn’t ever travel to the end of the road (and no traveler of that time ever did due to distance and dangers) Mei confidently believed he would find a way for her pebble to go that far. And if her pebble could travel to the end of the world, so could she!

Indeed it does. From China through central Asia to Europe, through the hands of a Buddhist monk to a sandalwood trader, to a performing acrobat, and eventually to a thieving pirate, the piece of jade makes its way to a surprising destination. Atmospheric and colorful illustrations provide lively snapshots of life on the Silk Road, as the seasons and settings change, with each new exchange between traders. The simple text also gives context clues for readers who are unfamiliar with the historical period.

Educators will also be pleased to know that both an endnote, which includes a bibliography, and detailed maps on the endpapers give extensive background information about the Silk Road. Christensen has done her research well.

Besides its entertainment value, A Single Pebble might also inspire activities within the classroom. Young readers might contemplate their own single items, which could have in ancient times been traded. Older readers might be intrigued to know that travelers along the Silk Road often endured blazing heat, sand storms, freezing cold, and a threat of attack from bandits. Moreover, travelers often had to cross mountains and deserts, before they reached their destination. Such details might inspire older readers to write their own “Silk Road” stories.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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