Adventures of Marco Polo

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Overview


Was Marco Polo the world's greatest explorer -- or the world's greatest liar? Newbery Medalist Russell Freedman turns his eagle eye on the enigmatic Marco Polo in his most exciting biography yet.

He claimed to have seen rocks burn, bandits command sandstorms, lions tamed with a look, and sorcerers charm sharks while divers gathered pearls on the ocean floor. Marco Polo shook Europe with descriptions of the world he'd seen on his epic journey ...

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Overview


Was Marco Polo the world's greatest explorer -- or the world's greatest liar? Newbery Medalist Russell Freedman turns his eagle eye on the enigmatic Marco Polo in his most exciting biography yet.

He claimed to have seen rocks burn, bandits command sandstorms, lions tamed with a look, and sorcerers charm sharks while divers gathered pearls on the ocean floor. Marco Polo shook Europe with descriptions of the world he'd seen on his epic journey to the court of Kublai Khan.

But was Marco Polo the world's most accomplished explorer? Had he really seen the "Roof of the World" in Central Asia, and the "City of Heaven" in far-off China? Or was he a charlatan who saw nothing more than the conjurings of his inventive mind? Join Russell Freedman as he tackles a centuries-old mystery.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

HB
This handsome volume -- with faux-aged paper, archival prints, original art reminiscent of the Middle Ages, and gold leaf decorating the jacket -- resembles a fourteenth-century manuscript, an appropriate aesthetic for a book about Marco Polo. Freedman sets his focus by posing two questions: "Did he really travel to China and beyond, as he claimed? Or was he, in fact, 'the man of a million lies'?" Freedman provides necessary background by writing of Polo's experiences and using liberal quotes from Polo's own Description of the World. Some descriptions seem fanciful, but Freedman asks readers to consider Polo's provincial point of view. Perhaps the creatures Polo encountered in Yunnan Province -- "snakes" that walked on legs and could eat a man -- were actually crocodiles, an animal unknown in Europe. But such fantastic images, as well as Polo's tendency toward self-aggrandizement, his habit of usurping the accounts of others, the numerous abridgments, and a litany of things he did not report, also address the larger question of the journey's veracity. An author's note suggests more complex resources on the Polo debate. Also included are notes about the art (referencing specific illustrations) and an index. B.C.

Booklist Starred

The name Marco Polo evokes images of faraway travels and exotic treasures: silks and spices, gold and jewels. Newbery Medal winner Freedman takes readers along on Polo's journey in a book that is as beautiful as many of the sights the explorer observed. It begins at Polo's deathbed, his family begging him to confess his exaggerations. Even some contemporary scholars don't believe Polo went to China, but many observers think most of his tales were true. Using Polo's own descriptions (as told to a writer he met in prison), Freedman shepherds readers across deserts, down the Silk Road, and over mountains until the adventurer reaches the magnificent kingdom of Kublai Khan. Supporting Freedman's informative yet evocative prose are enchanting illustrations. Ibatoulline follows the historic journey with art inspired by different periods--for instance, he uses illuminated manuscripts as the basis for the European scenes. The original artwork is complemented by many historic illustrations, some from editions of Polo's Description of the World. The meticulous art notes call attention to the lack of text source notes, although Freedman does include an extensive, informative author's note about Polo's claims. With its thick, mottled pages and attractive design, this is a glorious piece of bookmaking; readers will find it a pleasure to explore. ¬¬--Ilene Cooper

SLJ Starred
Gr 5-9–In an age when critics obsess about the blurred line between fact and fiction, Freedman prepares readers for ambiguity right from the contents page. “Nothing But the Truth” is both the title of his first chapter and a phrase pulled from Polo's book, The Description of the World. Apparently the Venetian's own family doubted the veracity of his version of the 24-year, 6500-mile journey to and sojourn in Kublai Khan's court and begged him to recant on his deathbed. The chapter “Did Marco Polo Go to China?” presents current scholarship challenging the nobleman's claims, as well as plausible counterarguments. In between, readers find a flavor of the adventurer's early and final years, descriptions of treacherous mountain excursions and raging sandstorms, and details of the splendor and sophistication of Xanadu, where Polo served as envoy to the emperor. The accounts are accompanied by original and archival illustrations and maps; extensive endnotes provide further documentation. Many of the illuminated manuscripts come from various editions of Polo's book; they span several centuries. Ibatoulline's handsome single-page paintings appear at the beginning of each chapter, anchoring the telling, even while the artistic conventions adapt to the culture being depicted. The calligr

Publishers Weekly
Freedman (Confucius: The Golden Rule) here investigates the puzzle posed by the more than 150 extant versions of the 13th-century explorer Marco Polo's book, The Description of the World. In his introductory and last chapters (as well as a concluding author's note that lays out where modern scholars stand on Polo), Freedman acknowledges that many, from Polo's day forward, have contested the veracity of Marco's claims, which included a three-year governorship of Yangzhou and work as a "trusted envoy" of Kublai Khan. In the fascinating central chapters, Freedman sidelines skepticism: he quotes liberally from Polo's account, retracing the amazing journey to and from lands unfathomable to most Europeans living at that time. Marco, at age 17, with his merchant father and uncle, trekked through the Middle East, India and China, sailing over four seas, on a journey that would take nearly 24 years to complete. Ibatoulline's accomplished paintings reflect the artistic conventions of the cultures Marco encountered (his sources are noted) and act as a visual bridge between the events of the text and captioned archival reproductions throughout many from editions of Marco's book (meticulously credited in endnotes). Two double-page maps (modern geographically, yet charmingly na ve in style) trace Marco's route to and within China, and the seagoing journey home. Creamy pages resemble parchment, and attentive design elements include illustrated boards with gilt inlay. Freedman's impeccable research, historical fidelity and flair for engrossing narrative nonfiction combine with handsome bookmaking for a highly recommended biography. Ages 9-12. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
"And we shall set down things seen as seen," says the prologue to Marco Polo's The Description of the World, "and things heard as heard only...." Freedman's handsome book sets out to do no less, sifting through the controversy that has enveloped the colorful figure of Marco Polo. Was he an intrepid traveler or a masterful liar? Through text that rolls carpet-like over an incredibly vast landscape, the reader is transported to the narrow lanes of San Severo, the wind-whipped Dasht-e-Lut, and the Khan's resplendent capital of Daidu, precursor to present-day Beijing. Quotes from translations of The Descriptions of the World are woven together with Freedman's own fluid prose. In addition, the writing vivifies that landscape while simultaneously rendering it, in keeping with the subject, vastly incredible. Thirteenth century exoticizing of "the East" is presented in full flower, combined with thoughtful commentary that renders people and times comprehensible to young readers. In the end Freedman comes down on the side of those who argue that Polo did indeed make the journey. His scribe and prison cellmate Rustichello, this view holds, may have been responsible for both exaggerations and deletions that have since called the journey itself into question. Meticulous craft is Freedman's hallmark. (See Confucius: The Golden Rule.) You will not find here the invented dialogue and altered time lines that are becoming increasingly commonplace in books that pass for nonfiction. Translations of Marco Polo's book are used as filters through which to view the life and journey of its writer. Multiple sources are detailed in an author's note that also dispels common myths aboutnoodles and gunpowder and cites the academic controversy about this legendary journey. Ibatoulline's art offers as much to study in this book as does the writing. His style shifts to evoke the different cultures the Polos would have encountered. Art sources in the back matter provide further substantiation. Additionally, the book's design makes skillful use of archival images, from the woodcut title page of a 1503 edition of Marco Polo's book, to a wealth of miniatures, engravings, and illuminations, all carefully referenced.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-In an age when critics obsess about the blurred line between fact and fiction, Freedman prepares readers for ambiguity right from the contents page. "Nothing But the Truth" is both the title of his first chapter and a phrase pulled from Polo's book, The Description of the World. Apparently the Venetian's own family doubted the veracity of his version of the 24-year, 6500-mile journey to and sojourn in Kublai Khan's court and begged him to recant on his deathbed. The chapter "Did Marco Polo Go to China?" presents current scholarship challenging the nobleman's claims, as well as plausible counterarguments. In between, readers find a flavor of the adventurer's early and final years, descriptions of treacherous mountain excursions and raging sandstorms, and details of the splendor and sophistication of Xanadu, where Polo served as envoy to the emperor. The accounts are accompanied by original and archival illustrations and maps; extensive endnotes provide further documentation. Many of the illuminated manuscripts come from various editions of Polo's book; they span several centuries. Ibatoulline's handsome single-page paintings appear at the beginning of each chapter, anchoring the telling, even while the artistic conventions adapt to the culture being depicted. The calligraphic font of the chapter headings and the parchmentlike pages add to the sense of an authentic experience. The author's in-depth narrative style and historian's skepticism require more background knowledge and a longer attention span than Nick McCarty's Marco Polo (National Geographic, 2006), but the effort will be richly rewarded.-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A gloriously designed biography of Marco Polo brings to young readers some of the excitement his Description of the World must have offered to contemporary readers upon its publication at the turn of the 14th century. The graceful text quotes from Polo's account as it describes his travels into a land that, unfortunately, is likely as little known to the average American reader as it was to medieval Europeans. The passages through mountains and deserts receive as vivid a treatment as does the court of Kublai Khan, whose intellectual curiosity and religious tolerance stand as his shining achievements. Freedman admits his readers into the scholarly debate as to the veracity of Polo's account, both by admitting doubt where appropriate into the main narrative and in a more extensive concluding discussion. Ibatoulline exhibits chameleon-like adaptability with his chapter-introducing illustrations, varying style from Western to Eastern to suit the subject. Full-color reproductions of archival material, parchment-toned pages and two perfectly placed maps round out this spectacular offering. A bibliographical essay, detailed notes on the archival illustrations and an index comprise the exemplary backmatter. Simply splendid. (Biography. 9-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439523943
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/1/2006
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 64
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 1270L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.90 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


Russell Freedman is a nonfiction writer who prefers to be called a "factual author." He says that's because lots of people think "nonfiction" is less interesting and less important than fiction. Freedman tries to stamp out that myth with every book he writes.
Freedman chooses only topics that he is interested in and wants to learn more about. He likes to write about people in history who have character traits that stand out and make them memorable.

Freedman is the author of 44 books including Lincoln: A
Photobiography, for which he won the 1988 Newbery Medal; and
The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane, for which he won the 1992 Newbery Honor.

Linas Alsenas, 2001 Harvard University graduate in History of Art and Architecture, grew up with his two older siblings and two parents. Author of Peanut (2007) and Mrs. Claus Takes a Vacation (2006), Linas plans to continue writing and illustrating books for children and young adults. He currently lives in Sweden with his partner and their pet parrot named Oliver.

Bagram Ibatoulline was born in Russia and educated at the Moscow State Academic Art Institute. He has illustrated many books for children, including THE ADVENTURES OF MARCO POLO by Russell Freedman, and CROW CALL by Lois Lowry. Bagram lives in Gouldsboro, Pennsylvania.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2013

    The Adventures of Marco Polo is very interesting and not too lon

    The Adventures of Marco Polo is very interesting and not too long that it  just drags on. 
    This book come along with illustration that follow Marco's travels and paintings of certain 
    scenes from the book.  In short this book is a biography of Marco Polo's travels not so much 
    his life.  Since he didn't record much about his personal life.   During his travels he starts of in Venice, Italy from when he was born to about when he is nineteen when he first left Italy and went to what is now known as China.  It’s a good book for writing a report on explorers and different cultural experiences.  Marco Polo the famous explorer that lead others to explore like Christopher Columbus to America he originally thought it was Asia.  When Marco died he was considered “the man of a million lies,” which to this day is still being debated.  He wrote in his book The Description of the World  his travels and his findings from China.  Like “rocks that burned and pieces of paper as valuable as gold: “black lions” and snakes with legs; people who decorated their body with ink, and a king with 500 wives.”  This book tracks his adventure well and brings up other information from other source to give some light on the topic.  So in the end it tracks well gives a good history on the subject of Marco Polo and it has graphics to make it easier to understand and it’s not too long either.  

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2008

    Great Book

    This book is great it is one of the best books i have read. It is a DCF book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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