Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Book Club - Emperor's Silent Army

Here is another entry in my series of book clubs for 1st through 3rd graders. Some of my kids are homeschoolers and tend younger, so my activities tend to gear that way.

Book: The Emperor's Silent Army by Jane O'Connor

Introduce Yourself
Tell us your name, your age, and what you would put in a tomb like the Emperor made?
We start every book club with name, age, and some semi-related book question.

Discussion Questions
  1. Why did the Emperor have the clay soldiers made?
  2. What would you take with you to the afterlife if you could?
  3. What type of soldier would you like to be in the Ancient Chinese Army?
  4. What surprised you most about the terracotta army?
  5. What would it be like to spend a very long time making something like a soldier and then have it buried?
  6. Why did the emperor have the books (except medicine and farming) burned? (he thought ignorant people were easier to control)
  7. What do you think of this? Are ignorant people easier to control? Why or why not?
  8. What were some of the interesting things about the emperor’s life? (the 270 palaces, assassination attempts, etc)
  9. Would you like to have been a first century emperor like that? Why or why not?
  10. Can you think of other cultures that built elaborate tombs? (the Egyptians, the Mayans)
  11. How do we honor the dead now?

There are all sorts of fascinating pieces of information about the teracotta soldiers on the web, including about the excavation of the Emperoror's tomb (and what is holding it up). We talked about that side of the story and looked at pictures and such.

Not a surprise, we went with making our own teracotta soldiers. I used self-hardening clay so the kids could take it home immediately and not have to worry about a kiln or the like. It was fun, but some kids were resistant and wanted to make their own images. After they made one little soldier, they were allowed to make other creatures, dogs and cats were especially popular. We used simple tooth picks to do our molding.

In keeping with our semi-Chinese theme, we had a semi-Chinese snack. We drank Green Tea a la Crystal Light. (In a powder, mixed up a pitcher, served chilled, it is rasberry enthused, etc.) All of the kids at least tried the Green Tea and only one didn't end up liking it. We ate snow peas (available in bags in the bagged salad aisle of my supermarket) dipped in ranch dressing (not at all Chinese, but very kid friendly). All the kids liked the snow peas, except for one (surprisingly not the same child who objected to the Green Tea).

One parent objected to the book and would not let his daughter read it because it "wasn't a story book" and was perhaps a bit too scary. Another parent thought it was rather "intense". They are primarily referring to the parts where the workers are shut in (to die) in the Emperor's Tomb. However, I strongly believe in tossing in the occasional non-fiction into our book club. A lot of kids respond very well to non-fiction, it stretches them, introduces them to types of literature, etc. The vast majority of the kids and parents had fun with this book.