Kubla Khan: the Emperor of Everything by Kathleen Krull with illustrations by Robert Byrd is a historical and visual delight. The only bit I recalled about Kubla Khan was Coleridge’s lines, “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/ A stately pleasure-dome decree.” Krull and Byrd show the pleasure-dome and also the Mongol hoards destroying a village. They show the extent of the kingdom the Mongols conquered (from Korea to most of China to Turkey) and also the improvements he brought to his kingdom. According to Marco Polo, Kubla Khan introduced education for all boys, religious tolerance, paper money, food assistance, medical care, parties for thousands, printed books, irrigation and agricultural assistance, road and bridge building, and theaters across his kingdom. Both the text and the pictures present Kubla Khan’s ferocity and his accomplishments without sensationalizing the story. Kubla Khan’s kingdom reminds us again that our “modern” efforts in the world aren’t that new after all.
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