Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kubla Khan: The Emperor of Everything

Kubla Khan: The Emperor of Everything
written by Kathleen Krull; illustrated by Robert Byrd
(Viking) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

Just looking at the cover of Kubla Khan:The Emperor of Everything revealed three things that made me immediately pick up this book. First, I have very little background knowledge when it comes to leaders of the Mongol Empire so I thought this would be an interesting subject for reading. Second, I looked at the cover illustration and marveled at the detail of Robert Byrd's resplendent work. Third, when I saw Kathleen Krull's name as the author, I knew I was going to have information presented in a clear and entertaining fashion. On all three counts, Kubla Khan delivers. Krull starts off by introducing us to the nomadic culture of the 13th century Mongols. It was a brutal life which made these people rugged and not to be trifled with. We learn about the two most important women in Kubla Khan's life, his ambitious mother and his equally ambitious second wife Chabi. They advised him on military matters and made sure he was seen by the right people. One of the aspects that I really like about this book is the care Kathleen Krull takes to show us that Kubla Khan was a more multi-faceted and civil man than history may give him credit for being. He was tolerant of other religions as long as they didn't interfere with his position as the Great Khan. The civility of China with its fine clothing, art, and intellectual pursuits greatly appealed to Kubla Khan and influenced his thinking later on in life. Khan was not without his excesses and Krull details these much to our amazement. Can you imagine five thousand elephants carrying gifts for you or a party for forty thousand people? Kubla Khan had a tremendous influence on both Eastern and Western culture (see Marco Polo) and The Emperor of Everything would be an excellent introduction to this historic leader. This book would also be a refreshing addition to your biography collection.

Other reviews of Kubla Khan: The Emperor of Everything:
Chicago Tribune
Book Dragon

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