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Sondok: Princess of the Moon and Stars    by Sheri Holman order for
by Sheri Holman
Order:  USA  Can
Scholastic, 2002 (2002)

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* * *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

This is one of a series of Royal Diaries. Other titles include Elizabeth I, Cleopatra, Isabel of Castile, Marie Antoinette, Anastasia, and also Nzingha : Warrior Queen of Matambe and the Lady of Chi'ao Kuo : Warrior of the South.

Sondok was a princess, (and later queen) of Silla, one of the three kingdoms of Korea, in A.D. 595. She is writing her diary to her grandmother, who dwells in a beautiful pale green jar, brimming with white rice and paper. When she begins her diary, Sondok is very excited by the arrival from China of an embassador, Lin Fang, with the new official calendar. This is of particular interest, since Sondok is a budding astronomer, and has been trying to persuade her father to build her an observatory.

Unfortunately, Sondok finds that the official calendar predicts an eclipse of the sun which her calculations (and those of the other court astronomers) find is an error. Her attempts to point this out, however, are spurned not only by Lin Fang but by her father, who needs an alliance with China. It turns out that Lin Fang is a rigid Confucianist, who is appalled that a mere woman should think of becoming an astronomer, and even more when he finds she is the heir to her father's kingdom.

Though Sondok is a historical character, not much is known about her life, except that she made three famous prophecies; that she and the Buddhist monk Chadang whom she knew as a young girl built a famed nine storied pagoda; and that she eventually built her observatory, which still stands in Kyongju, South Korea. Hers is a delightful story. Written elegantly but with feeling, it brings the distant past to vivid life.

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