The Story of Marco Polo



Book: The Story of Marco Polo

Author: Olive Price

Illustrator: Federico Castellon

Publisher: Low Marston, republished 1960



Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 8-12

Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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Price, Olive.  The Story of Marco Polo (originally published in 1953 by Grosset and Dunlap Publishers, New York City, NY; republished in 1960 by Sears Young People’s Book Club, P. O. Box 6570A, Chicago, IL).  This book is what I assume to be a slightly fictionalized account of the thrilling voyages and great events in the life of Marco Polo (1254 – 1324), an Italian merchant, explorer, and citizen of the Venice Republic, whose travels are recorded in a book that described to Europeans the wealth and great size of China, its capital Peking, and other Asian cities and countries.  He learned the mercantile trade from his father and uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo, who travelled through Asia.  His father Niccolo was a merchant who traded with the Near East, becoming wealthy and achieving great prestige.   Niccolò and his brother Maffeo set off on a trading voyage before Marco’s birth and met Kublai Khan.

Almost nothing is known about the childhood of Marco until he was fifteen years old, excepting that he probably spent most of his childhood in Venice. Marco’s mother died, and an aunt and uncle raised him. He received a good education, learning mercantile subjects including foreign currency, appraising, and the handling of cargo ships.  In 1269, the Polo brothers returned to their families in Venice and met Marco for the first time. Two years later, during the rule of Doge Lorenzo Tiepolo, Marco Polo, at seventeen years of age, his father, and his uncle set off for Asia on an epic series of adventures that Marco later documented in his book. They returned to Venice in 1295, 24 years later, with many riches and treasures. They had travelled almost 15,000 miles.  How were the Polos treated in China?  What did they find when they came home?  And how did Marco come to write his famous book?

The Story of Marco Polo, originally printed in 1953, is Book 22 in the Signature Biographies Series.  The Signature series was published in the 1950’s by Grosset and Dunlap and sold by subscription. These biographies are all titled “The Story of …” and tell about the lives of famous people from their early years through their prime and into old age. They are slightly more advanced in reading level than the Childhood of Famous Americans series, but not as advanced as the Landmark series. Each book has a timeline of the great events in the person’s life on the end pages. Older books like this are often much more exciting and therefore more interesting to read than the kind of bland, usually politically correct, biographies written for children today. The Signature series is enjoyable reading and highly recommended.

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