Saturday, December 11, 2010

Kubla Khan: The Emperor of Everything


by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Robert Byrd
Viking, 2010. Unpaged. Nonfiction.


Though Genghis gets all the press, his grandson Kubla became the great Khan of everything, an extraordinary figure in his own right who expanded Genghis' Mongol empire to include almost all of Asia and even to the brink of Europe. Since the Mongols had no written language, not much is known about Kubla Khan except what was recorded by people he conquered and by Marco Polo, a somewhat unreliable source. But Kathleen Krull has still managed to flesh out a fascinating account of the man who ruled a large chunk of the known world for thirty-four years.

Though he was himself a gifted military leader and "unusually fair" conqueror, his mother and his second wife made sure he made strategic alliances and kept to the path of their ambitions for him. At the height of his power lavish parties and spectacles characterized his reign, including a New Year's festival which included five thousand elephants carrying gifts to the khan from through his realm. Robert Byrds artwork, inspired by what is known of Mongolian design and by Oriental art, adds depth and fascination to this fine picture book biography.

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