Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Warlord’s Alarm: A Mathematical Adventure

The Warlord’s Alarm: A Mathematical Adventure

Virginia Walton Pilegard
Illustrator:   Nicolas Debon 
Picture Book  Series
For ages 6 to 8
Pelican Publishing, 2006   ISBN: 978-1589803787

All is not well in the great empire of China and the Emperor has invited his governors to attend a feast in the Imperial City to discuss matters. The warlord Ying-Fa has invited Chuan and Jing Jing to accompany him on his journey. Of course the two children are very excited to see the city and the emperor. Unfortunately it is a long journey and the warlord begins to worry that his enemies will get there first and will tell lies about him in his absence. It is important that they should get to the city as quickly as possible.

At last they are close to the city and they need to spend only one more night at an inn. The warlord asks Chuan to make sure that they leave the inn in good time to reach the gates of the city early the next morning at sunrise. A servant at the inn tells them that it will take them four hours to reach the city walls. The problem is that Chuan has no way of knowing when four hours before sunrise will be. He has no clock to tell him what the time is.

Luckily for Chuan clever Jung Jing has seen clocks and knows how they work. All the children have to do is to come up with a way to make a simple clock of their own. All they need to do this is to find something in the inn which “happens again and again in a regular way.”

Young readers will be fascinated to read about a time when clocks were not found in every home. Indeed in this day and age it is hard to imagine what it would be like to live without clocks and watches. By using their heads and mathematics the two children in this story manage to make a simple timepiece which not only gives them an idea of what time it is but which also wakes them up at the correct time.

The text and the beautiful illustrations in this unique picture book will give the reader a very clear picture of what it might have been like to live in ancient China many hundreds of years ago.

At the back of the book the author further describes how the Chinese made water clocks. She also includes an activity which readers might like to try which shows them how to make their own water clock.