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Season of the Sandstorms: Magic Tree House #34    by Mary Pope Osborne & Sal Murdocca order for
Season of the Sandstorms
by Mary Pope Osborne
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Continuing their Merlin Missions, Jack and Annie travel back 1200 years in time to help the caliph (an Arabian ruler) to spread 'wisdom to the world'. Season of the Sandstorms takes them on an adventure to the ancient city of Baghdad. Armed with their magic rhyme book, Jack and Annie travel by camel in high desert temperatures through ferocious sandstorms, with very cool nights after the sun has settled.

They arrive in time to meet Mamoon, the leader of a merchant caravan, whose saddlebags are filled with 'goods from Greece, Turkey, and Syria', including jewels, beads and precious spices to sell at the marketplace in Baghdad. The merchant gives Annie and Jack lessons about the 'miracle of nature' - camels which 'have carried people across deserts for thousands of years'. Camels are able to carry 500 pounds on their backs, and travel 100 miles in a single day. Concerned about Jack and Annie's safety, Mamoon invites them to join the caravan. When bandits attack, Mamoon gives Jack a wooden box to protect with 'your lives', as the two friends rush off as fast as their camels can run. Separated from the caravan, Jack and Annie follow the 'rising sun in the east', listening to the music of 'the whistling sands'. As they enter the gates of the city, they are welcomed by the sights of Baghdad and the maze of an open-air marketplace (known as a bazaar), with its shoemakers, potters, weavers of silk brocade, and the aroma of incense.

Jack and Annie must find the third wall and follow other clues in Merlin's rhyming letter. When they tell people they are headed to meet the caliph, the siblings are laughed at and told: 'Our caliph is the most powerful man in the world ... He does not have time to visit with children.' Undaunted, they search for the palace and the House of Wisdom to deliver a book: The Writings of Aristotle. Mary Pope Osborne journeyed to Baghdad many years ago, and experienced first-hand the 'brilliant sunset over the desert, and the cold starry night'. In the Facts section, Osborne writes of the ancient city that 'lies between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers', once known as Mesopotamia, meaning between the rivers. Illustrator Sal Murdocca delivers splendid black and whites sketches of proud camels, people dressed in long robes, pointed shoes, and head scarves, and a wondrous starry sky over large city buildings.

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