CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 3. . . .September 22, 2017
10 Routes That Crossed the World. (The World of Tens).
Gillian Richardson. Illustrated by Kim Rosen.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2017.
164 pp., pbk., hc., html & pdf, $14.95 (pbk.), $24.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-875-3 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-876-0 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55451-877-7 (html), ISBN 978-1-55451-878-4 (pdf).
Voyages and travels-History-Juvenile literature.
Migrations of nations-Juvenile literature.
Emigration and immigration-Juvenile literature.
Mountain passes-Juvenile literature.
Grades 6-8 / Ages 11-13.
Review by Ellen Wu.
From ancient times to modern days, people have laid trails across the land. If we follow their footsteps along these routes, we find stories of migrations, discoveries, wars, and the settling of new countries. They tell us of tests of faith and dreams for the future. The journeys may be long or short, but you’ll be amazed by how far they’ve reached, the traces they’ve left, and they lives they’ve changed.
Another stalwart entry in the “10 Series”, Gillian Richardson’s 10 Routes that Changed the World invites readers to investigate the land routes which played an important role in empire-building, war, faith practices, trade, and more. A librarian-turned-writer with a passion for the past, Richardson plunges young readers (and reviewers) into accounts whose geographical range belies the impact they had on human history.
As with every “10 Series” title, each route is prefaced with its location in the world, claim to fame, the meaning of its name, a description of its key physical and geographical features, when it was built or discovered, and who makes use of the route now. A fictional vignette follows, focalized through the perspective of a child. For the chapter on the Roman Roads, readers meet Jon, a young Briton who observes a column of Roman soldiers. From the entry on the Serengeti, readers meet Lembui, a Maasai boy growing up in the 1950s. His way of life will soon be drastically changed as the government deliberates on decisions which would eradicate the Maasai’s traditional culture and migratory patterns in herding cattle. The routes are laid out in chronological order, from Beringia to the Camino de Santiago, from the Trans-Siberian Railway to the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
While it is not possible to summarize every entry, some do stand out. The chapter on Inca roads would fascinate any young reader as Richardson describes an intricate road system developed in the centuries before the Spanish conquest in 1532, but based on much older trails dating back 2500 years. With a main north-south road running through the Andes highlands, the road system links modern-day Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, and Argentina, fanning out in four directions from the ancient Incan capital, Cuzco. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Qhapac Nan is still used by villagers to travel and trade between communities, and it is popular amongst tourists and hikers who want to visit sites such as Machu Picchu. Built by Incan engineers through many different topographies, the trails made use of natural materials readily available to the builders, such as grasses and rocks, used switchbacks for steep areas, and employed ingenious drainage strategies that have withstood centuries of erosion and earthquakes so that many are still in use today. In an annual ritual each June at Huinchiri, Peru, rope bridges are still made using the techniques perfected centuries ago. Sadly, this amazing network of roads facilitated the Incan empire’s downfall at the hands of the ruthless Spanish conquistadores less than a century after the Incans came into power.
Routes were used not only as modes to consolidate empire, as with the Romans and the Incans. Richardson profiles the Camino de Santiago which pilgrims have used since the early 800s to visit the reputed remains of St. James at Santiago de Compostela, remains which were responsible for many miracles. During the Middle Ages, the Camino de Santiago was one of the three main pilgrimage routes for Christians, besides Rome and Jerusalem; it became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1987. Today, up to 2.5 million pilgrims still make the trek yearly to renew their faith or to experience the rich culture of Spain. The Serengeti Migration Trail, meanwhile, is the site of the world’s greatest migration of mammals each year, involving zebras, wildebeests, antelopes, and more—millions of animals on the move between the Ngorongoro Crater in the south up through the Serengeti National Park that creates a natural trail in a delicately balanced ecosystem. Intertwined with this mass migration are the Maasai people, cattle herders who moved to the area in the 17th century and adapted to the rhythms of the natural world to survive. Changes in geopolitics in the twentieth century, over-hunting, and attempts to the preserve the Serengeti, however, continue to challenge the traditional culture of the Maasai, but some are brought on board as local area experts to retain the majesty and integrity of the Serengeti migration trail for generations to come.
Those entranced by the gold rush expeditions in the 19th century would not be disappointed in the account of the Chilkoot Trail over which gold prospectors attempted to scale “the meanest 32 miles in Alaska and British Columbia”. In 1898, more than 40,000 fortune seekers tried their luck in the treacherous conditions of the trail, with few returning laden with the elusive mineral. Richardson does not shy away from the consequences of development in the name of enterprise, as she writes a brief but saddening note on the Tlingit people whose lives would forever be altered through their willingness to aid the first gold seekers during the Klondike Gold Rush. The Tlingit could not have foreseen that prospectors would destroy their waterways by washing gold ore in salmon streams, cutting down forests for lumber, and decimating the animal population. Indigenous groups were displaced from their land, and new laws, customs, diseases, and discrimination ended their way of life—a high price to pay for fortune indeed.
The Ho Chi Minh Trail is the last route explored, as Richardson recounts the tragedies of the protracted Vietnam War. Named an ‘artery of war’, the trail and those who fought to protect it withstood the devastating measures taken by the United States in their efforts to topple the Viet Cong and demonstrated the resilience of the Vietnamese people. Known originally in Vietnam as the Truong Son Road, the Ho Chi Minh Trail is a north-south trail which became increasingly sophisticated during the war, allowing for field hospitals, refuelling stations, a system of underground tunnels, and anti-aircraft installations to be developed under cover of the thick jungle vegetation. Repaired by civilians, the trail withstood daily air bombardments, attacks with napalm and cluster bombs, and the use of Agent Orange to deforest the area. Richardson rightly identifies that the Vietnamese people were truly what made the Ho Chi Minh Trail what it was, but they do so at the staggering cost of over 4.8 million Vietnamese lives and nearly half a million American ones.
A bibliography of resources consulted in the book, suggestions for further reading, an index for those who want to look up pertinent information, and image credits, make this an excellent resource for research and teaching. As with its companions in the series, 10 Routes that Changed the World informs and also instils more wonder (and sometimes sorrow) at the world around us, and is indeed, as Richardson’s dedication hopes it would be, a book for those who blaze trails, and for the curious who follow them.
Ellen Wu is a teen services librarian at Surrey Libraries in BC.
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