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It's a tricky task to re-create the life of the famed Mongolian ruler, as reliable information on the man is scanty, but Krull assembles a convincingly grand impression of Kubla Khan and his vast accomplishments. The grandson of the warlord Genghis Khan, Kubla would eventually become the first emperor of China's Yuan dynasty, and a remarkably enlightened one, stressing knowledge, the arts, and quality of life (though he wasn't above resorting to some serious savagery during his ascendancy). The grandiosity of his reign is well depicted in Byrd's Eastern-style artwork, which provides a subtle buttress to the narrative arc, from the earthy tones of Kubla's nomadic childhood to the regal colouring and intricate designs of his luxurious reign to the husky sunset of his final years. Krull underscores Kubla's worldwide significance by extrapolating how his meeting with Marco Polo helped spark the European age of exploration. A list of sources—with those best suited for young readers handily denoted—concludes the book, a solid choice for reports that is also scintillating enough for pleasure reading. Grades 3-5. --Ian Chipman
Mr. Byrd is a successful commercial artist and children's book illustrator whose award-winning picture books include The Bear and the Bird King. Robert Byrd lives in Haddonfield, New Jersey.