This post contains an affiliate link.
Title: Miss Bianca in the Orient by Margery Sharp
When the Ambassador from the Orient visits, Miss Bianca learns of an unfortunate page boy who is condemned to death for sneezing in the Ranee’s sherbet. Miss Bianca and Bernard travel to “the Orient” to try and save the poor boy. But will their plan succeed when nobody seems to know anything about him or his whereabouts?
I just finished this book tonight and I came away disappointed. I remember reading it when I was younger, but I must not have been quite as critical back then. There were some things that I picked up on this time through which really put a bad taste in my mouth.
Let’s start with the good, though. I love Miss Bianca and Bernard. They have such lovely personalities and work very well as a team. Bernard’s devotion to Miss Bianca is so, so sweet. The premise of the story is also promising. Our intrepid duo travels to “the Orient” to rescue an unfortunate page boy who has been sentenced to death. The characters we meet in the palace court are interesting and fairly well developed. While the plot is very simple, it’s quite adequate for an elementary chapter book. And the illustrations by Erik Blegvad are very nicely done.
On to the bad. Throughout the book, the language referring to “the Orient” is exceptionally outdated and imprecise. Where exactly is “the Orient”? Why can’t we name a specific country with a specific language? What exactly is “Oriental writing”? What does it mean to be “Orientally thoughtless”? It doesn’t take a genius to pick up on the idea that the writer views “the Orient” as a generic group of people living in the East whose way of life is inferior to that of the West. Based on the details contained in the book, I believe the author had India in mind as the setting, but it’s never actually stated. Are we trying to make our children stupid by teaching them that the entirety of the East is one homogeneous and backward group of people?
Quite frankly, I won’t be keeping this book around the house because I would be mortified to have my children read the book and start talking about “the Orient” or “Oriental writing”. I would rather they learn about specific countries, languages, and people groups.
I don’t recommend Miss Bianca in the Orient to children because of what I perceive as subtle prejudice. However, if you’re an adult fan of Miss Bianca and Bernard, you might want to read this book to round out your knowledge of all of their adventures.
- Prejudice against “Orientals”
Rating: 2 1/2 Stars
Until next time…