cover image Marco Polo

Marco Polo

Susan L. Roth. Doubleday Books for Young Readers, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-385-26495-2

For many children, Marco Polo means a water game. But the historical Polo was a fascinating man who, at 17, left his native Venice to embark on a series of journeys with his father and uncle in 1271, not to return for 24 years. This ``diary'' (an invention of the author's, based on Polo's own book) chronicles many of his adventures--crossing the Gobi Desert on camelback; visiting such far-flung places as Armenia, Persia and Sumatra; serving as the Kublai Khan's governor in Yan-gui, China--and his encounters with ``marvels'' we take for granted nowadays, such as paper money and a postal system. While the breezy format of the ``diary'' is gratingly simplistic, it may whet readers' appetites by highlighting a few of Polo's experiences. It's a clever idea, and one that's ripe for the schoolroom, providing an abundance of material that could easily be used to enliven class discussions. The subtle visuals--prints, maps, woodcuts, a snippet of Chinese tapestry--provide an appropriately educational backdrop. Ages 5-10. (Feb.)