Kubla Khan: The Emperor of Everything


Kubla Khan: The Emperor of Everything by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Robert Byrd

Get a real sense of the great Khan who ruled over the largest empire in the world during the 13th century.  This picture book biography invites readers to be amazed by what Kubla Khan managed to create and build.  The emphasis is on the Khan’s achievements and the scope of his realm.  There are so many little facts shared that are fascinating and engaging.  They all demonstrate the largeness of his life and his achievements, from his one hundred children to the three million workers who extended the Grand Canal.  The feel of the book is rich and dramatic as well, thanks to the illustrations by Byrd.  Filled with small details, the illustrations and words work together to really bring this legendary leader to life.  While a boon for report writers, this is also a biography that reads aloud very well thanks to the engaging style.

Krull excels at making famous people from history more human.  With Kubla Khan, she humanizes him by sharing his youth in Mongolia.  Yet Krull allows Kubla Khan to remain larger than life, his power and success is so large that it would be wrong to minimize what he managed to accomplish.  Krull also emphasizes the fact that the Khan was very open to different opinions and new ideas.  His ability to remain open is what allowed him to become the leader he was. 

Byrd’s illustrations change as the Khan changes.  The youthful years in Mongolia have a freedom to the illustrations with racing horses, hunts, and smoky battlefields.  As Kubla Khan becomes more powerful and rules China, the illustrations reflect the Khan’s own changes and adoption of the Chinese style.  Beautifully depicted, the illustrations are detailed, rich and add to the deep texture of the book.

Highly recommended for all public library children’s nonfiction collections, this is a dazzling biography.  Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from copy received from Viking.

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Funniest Children’s Books of the Year

The winners of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize for 2010 have been announced:


Louise Yates won the prize for Ages 6 and Under with Dog Loves Books, a book after every book-lover’s heart.

Louise Rennison won the Ages 7-14 category with Withering Tights, a book I must get my hands on.

Thanks to booktrade.info for the news.

Erskine Wins National Book Award

Kathryn Erskine has won the 2010 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for her book Mockingbird

School Library Journal has information on the event.

The book has been the center of a discussion on several blogs about how much an author has to reveal about themselves in a book.