Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Marco Polo for Kids: His Marvelous Journey to China

Marco Polo for Kids: His Marvelous Journey to China

Janis Herbert
For ages 9 to 12
Chicago Review Press, 2001   ISBN: 978-1556523779

Marco had been waiting for nine long years for his father and his uncle Maffeo to return from their travels. At last they were back from their adventures and they told Marco about how the Kublai Khan, whom they had visited, had asked them to take a message to the Pope. The Khan wanted the Pope to send “100 of the west’s wisest men to his court” and he wanted the Polos to bring the men back to his court so that the Khan might talk to them.

When all was ready the Polos, this time taking Marco with them, set off for the land of the Khan. They did not have one hundred wise men with them, only two friars. But the new Pope had sent some handsome gifts to the Khan.

The travelers first went to Turkey and then traveled overland through Persia, Afghanistan, and thence into China which was “the realm of Kublai Khan.” As they traveled Marco learned as much as he could about the local cultures, customs and languages and later he would tell others about what he saw on his monumental journey. He wanted to be particularly knowledgeable about the Mongols, hoping this would help him better understand the Great Khan himself.

At the court of the Khan the Polos were given a grand welcome and Marco soon felt at home there. He began to learn everything that he could about Khan and his enormous kingdom. Because of his intelligence and ability to take note of his surroundings so well, the Khan sent Marco on various missions for him. In the Khan’s name Marco traveled all over China and Tibet and he also went to India and Sri Lanka.

Twenty years after leaving Italy the Polos began their journey home. It was a dangerous journey and they had many adventures but they eventually made it back to Venice. Not long after getting home Marco’s ship was captured and he was taken prisoner. In a tower in Genoa Marco told the story of his journey to Cathy (China) to pass the time and one man, Rustichello of Pisa offered to help Marco write down the story of his travels. After three years in the prison Marco and Rustichello had created a book which is still being read today.

In this fascinating book the author not only tells her readers about Marco Polo’s remarkable journey, but she also provides them with an enormous amount of information about each of the places that he visited. To expand on the experience and to make it more interesting twenty-one activities have been created to help the reader explore some of the art, history and culture of the places that Marco visited. Thus readers can try Chinese style painting, they can make a paper lantern, they can make Mongol yogurt, they can make an Indian batik, and much more. Throughout the book sidebars and boxes provide additional background information and activities which readers might find interesting.

Without a doubt this is one of the best books for young people that has been written about Marco Polo. Readers will learn so much as they read and they will have a lot of fun as they do so.