The Mysteries of Angkor Wat

I have to admit I wondered about The Mysteries of Angkor Wat by Richard Sobol. How would a book about an out-of-the-way place by an award-winning professional photographer appeal to children? Turns out that this book has loads of appeal for children because Sobol let real children help him tell the story. And what a fabulous story it is.

What is Angkor Wat? Translated as “City Temple,” it is a huge temple that was built close to 1000 years ago in what is now Cambodia by people of the mysterious Khmer Empire. The Khmer Empire is mysterious because the people disappeared around the fourteenth century, leaving behind only beautiful art and buildings. No one knows for sure what happened to what was once a thriving community of approximately one million people.

As you might expect from a “Traveling Photographer,” the photographs in the book are wonderful. Once again, they weren’t what I expected. Instead of wide-angle shots of the intricately-carved buildings dominating every layout, there are many spontaneous and close-range shots of the children who live near and play in the ruins each day. In fact, Sobol shows the children and adults performing many of the same tasks as depicted in engravings on the walls of the ancient building, contrasting their bright clothing and shining faces with those of the hard, gray stone. This helps the reader relate to the images and gives a sense of time and place.

The children are instrumental in helping the author find perhaps the strangest mystery of the temple, the “dee no soo,” but I’m not going to reveal what it is. Let’s just say that it is definitely part of the child appeal.

The book would be very useful for a geography unit on Cambodia because it has maps in the endpapers and in the beginning of the book, but has potential for a much wider audience, especially those interested in Asian history and culture.

Cybils notes:  This book is definitely appropriate for the younger reader, but it will appeal to a large age range.

Reading level: Ages 6 and up
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Candlewick (August 23, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0763641669
ISBN-13: 978-0763641665

Be sure to look for more information about children’s books at today’s Book Talk Tuesday.

This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.