Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Adventures of Marco Polo

The Adventures of Marco Polo

Russell Freedman
Illustrator:   Bagram Ibatoulline 
For ages 9 to 12
Scholastic, 2006   ISBN: 978-0439523943

In the early 1300’s a book came out which would have a lasting impression on the world. It was a description of the travels of a young Venetian who was called Marco Polo. The book “The Description of the World” describes extraordinary adventures and remarkable lands and places. It was widely read and translated into many languages but there were some who thought that much of what was described in the book was fiction based on stories that Marco had heard. These skeptics said that Marco never went to lands of Kublai Khan and that he did not see the Khan’s great palaces and beautiful cities.

There are many indications however that Marco did indeed get to what was then called Cathy. He, is father, and is uncle endured a long, arduous, and dangerous journey to the Great Khan’s summer capital at Shangdu – which many people call Xanadu. The three men were greatly liked by the Great Khan and were taken with him when the court, after the summer months were over, moved back to the main capital city of Daidu – modern day Beijing. Marco greatly admired this city and described it in detail, marveling at the way in which the city was planned, the affluence of the people who lived there, and the healthy and comfortable life style that they had.

This beautiful book not only describes Marco Polo’s fascinating journey to China, but it also discusses the controversy regarding the validity of Marco’s account, and it gives the reader a very clear picture of how big an impact Macro’s book had on the world.

For this book Bagram Ibatoulline has created stunning paintings in the style of the art produced in some of the places that Marco Polo visited. In addition the book is full of annotated beautifully reproduced archival period artwork.