Monday, December 6, 2010

Kubla Khan: The Emperor of Everything

Krull, Kathleen. 2010. Kubla Khan: The emperor of everything. Ill. by Robert Byrd. New York: Viking.

Working with what she acknowledges is "sketchy" information, Kathleen Krull has nonetheless provided a detailed and fascinating account of Kubla Khan, the Mongol warrior who, in 1271, became emperor of China.  Against overwhelming odds, Kubla Khan (grandson of the feared Genghis Kahn) oversaw an empire that he expanded to include Russia, Korea, Tibet and large portions of the Middle East.  Unlike later emperors, Kubla Khan welcomed foreigners (including Marco Polo), and his reign was a golden age for the arts and sciences as he freely embraced new ideas from the far reaches of his empire and beyond.

Krull writes in a familiar, easily accessible style, yet she still conveys the majesty and immensity of Kubla Kahn's empire,
On the Khan's birthday there was a wild party for as many as forty thousand people.  That may sound like quite a guest list, but his bodyguards alone numbered twelve thousand. ... One party blended into another.  Besides birthday bashes for his wives and children, other relatives, and various Mongol leaders, plus the parties for all religious holidays, there were celebrations for each of the thirteen lunar months.  Most over-the-top was the New Year's festival.  Everyone dressed in robes of white and watched the spectacle of five thousand elephants carrying in precious gifts for the Khan from all over his realm.

The text is written on parchment inspired pages and the previous passage is accompanied by an illustration of bedecked, marching elephants accompanied by soldiers while the waiting Khan and his wife are attended by white-robed guests. Illustrator Robert Bryd (Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village and Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer) was a perfect choice for the story of this 13th century ruler.  His folk art style illustrations complement and enhance Krull's storytelling, colorfully depicting the vastness of the Chinese empire and the resplendence of Kubla Khan's court, while conveying the sensibilities and possibilities of the time period. Every page is richly illustrated.

Contains author and illustrator notes and sources.
Highly recommended.

Visit the illustrator's website, Robert Byrd Art for a video preview of Kubla Khan's stunning artwork.-

Kubla Khan is on the School Library Journal list of Best Nonfiction Picture Books 2010, and is a Junior Library Guild Selection. Another review @ Kids Lit

It's Nonfiction Monday.  Today's roundup is @ The Reading Tub.
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