Kubla Khan: The Emperor of Everything

Overview

Always cast in a supporting role in the many books about Marco Polo, the great Kubla Khan now takes center stage in a splendid picture-book biography. He is a wonderful subject-a man who liked to live large, building the imperial city of Beijing from scratch, siring a hundred children, throwing birthday bashes for 40,000 guests. He ruled over the greatest empire of the time, one that was lightyears ahead of Western civilization in terms of the arts, sciences, and technology. With astonishingly beautiful and ...

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Overview

Always cast in a supporting role in the many books about Marco Polo, the great Kubla Khan now takes center stage in a splendid picture-book biography. He is a wonderful subject-a man who liked to live large, building the imperial city of Beijing from scratch, siring a hundred children, throwing birthday bashes for 40,000 guests. He ruled over the greatest empire of the time, one that was lightyears ahead of Western civilization in terms of the arts, sciences, and technology. With astonishingly beautiful and detailed illustrations by Robert Byrd and a clever text by Kathleen Krull, this portrait finally gives Kubla Khan his due.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The grandson of Genghis Khan, Kubla Khan united the Mongols and built the largest empire of his time. Under his rule, Beijing became a magnificent capital and the arts and sciences flourished. With just enough text to create a comprehensive yet fast-moving story, Krull depicts the life of this military emperor with a notable level of detail. Byrd's illustrations, based on period artwork, further reveal the spectacle and strength of the khan's empire. Ages 8-up. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
In the thirteenth century, Kubla Khan ruled over a huge empire that extended from parts of the Middle East through Russia to Korea, Tibet, and part of China, for thirty-four years. This lengthy but absorbing text tells the facts of his story as we know them. Riding horses from the age of three, Kubla was trained for battle at fourteen. Genghis Khan, his grandfather, had united the warring Mongol tribes in 1206. Mongols were tough nomads; horses were their key to success. Kubla's mother and wife were both very influential in his life, and his advisors came from all religions and nationalities. When he conquered China, he built his elaborate Imperial City in present-day Beijing, holding many enormous festivals there. He also supported the arts and sciences. His ending was tragic, but Marco Polo's account of his visit to the Imperial City helped inspire Christopher Columbus's quest for a sea route to China. In a note Byrd reveals that he drew upon period pictures from Russia and India for a visual pastiche because there is no Mongol art as such. His full-page ink line and painted scenes in those styles are filled with details of Kubla's life, including plants and costumes. The map on the end pages adds a touch of humor. There is also an author note and list of sources. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—Krull's clear and lively text describes Kubla Khan's life beginning with his earliest days, when he shot his first rabbit. According to legend, under his grandfather Genghis Khan's guidance, he ate a mixture of its meat and his own blood in a ritual to bring him luck and declare him "worthy of the hunt." During Kubla's reign, he became the first Emperor of the Yuan dynasty. To keep this vast area in check, he knew he would have to live in China and built a city worthy of an emperor. This lavish capital became Beijing. Krull depicts her subject as a wise, if not beloved, ruler. She includes an adequate bibliography with materials for both adults and young readers, but what she makes clear in her note is the relatively scant availability of primary sources. Much of what we know is derived from the fairly unreliable writings of Marco Polo. The colorful and appealing artwork integrates well with the text—the illustrator has also done significant research. Some portraits of Kubla Khan exist, both Chinese and European, but whether they are accurate is unclear. Byrd relied on the work of Eastern artists to inform his art so that the illustrations themselves echo what one may find in Chinese art and Mongolian design of the period. Little has been written for young readers about Kubla Khan, and this is a worthy addition for all collections.—Barbara Scotto, Children's Literature New England, Brookline, MA
Kirkus Reviews

The Emperor of Everything, indeed! Droll writing and detailed, almost encyclopedic, pen-and-watercolor illustrations make a perfect marriage for young readers trying to apprehend the totality of Kubla Khan's personality, history and accomplishments. The vivid description of Kubla's life as the grandson of Genghis Khan, the son of a watchful, hovering, ambitious mother, the husband of four wives and "countless" concubines and the father of 100 children is one that will impress even the most disaffected modern child. Krull's narration is typically earthy: "All the accounts of the time described Kubla's mother as a woman nobody messed with." The beauty of this story is in the details: thirsty riders cutting into the skin of their ponies to drink a little blood; Kubla sitting with his tame lion at his feet, on a throne covered with the skins of white horses; the postal system that would put the Pony Express to shame. On every spread, Byrd's illustrations invite readers to slow down and pore over every inch. This account is like Kubla Khan himself—amazing. (author's and illustrator's notes, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-12)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670011148
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/16/2010
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 688,008
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 10.80 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Mr. Byrd is a successful commercial artist and children's book illustrator whose award-winning picture books include The Bear and the Bird King. Robert Byrd lives in Haddonfield, New Jersey.

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