Grade 3-6. Set in ancient Silla, part of modern-day South Korea, this diary follows the life of Princess Sondok. Although little is known about the subject's childhood, Holman has written a discerning novel to reflect what life may have been like for the princess who became the first ruling Queen of Silla in A.D. 632. When the book opens, the protagonist has just become guardian of the ancestor jar. She writes notes to her dead grandmother, describing activities in the royal court or asking advice. These are the diary entries. What is known about Queen Sondok's reign is that Buddhism flourished, and that she built the oldest standing astronomical observatory in Asia. Thus, Holman has created an intelligent, spiritual princess with a passion for astronomy. The powerful influence of China and Confucianism in Silla is revealed through the fictitious character of Lin Fang, a Chinese Ambassador who becomes Sondok's teacher. She feels torn between the ancient, feminine practice of shamanism, the contemporary ideas of Buddhism, and the infiltrating authority of Confucianism in her country but she learns to take what is useful from each practice to find a balance for herself and the country she will soon reign. A well-written story that will inspire young readers to learn more about other wise women from Asia.
Be Astengo, Alachua County Library, Gainesville, FL
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