The Million Stories of Marco Polo

illus. by Maria Cristina Pritelli. 32p. maps. notes. Creative Editions. Aug. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781568462905.
Gr 3–5—More antihistoriography than travelogue, this work is a dialogue (in contrasting typefaces) between a fictitious scribe, an amalgamation of the many real writers who helped spread the legacy of Marco Polo, and a young listener. The child wants to hear about elephants, and so the scribe begins a tangent that encompasses brief retellings of Polo's tales as well as an exploration—and a bit of debunking—of the mythos surrounding him and his travels. (In regard to a story of a bridge vanishing right before Polo's eyes, the child responds, "Maybe bridges vanished because his eyes were so tired from travel?"). There are a few endnotes and a map but no sources or further reading. At one point, the young interlocutor questions the stories' truth and the adult asserts that "believing makes things true," certainly a controversial claim. For information on Polo's actual journeys, however embellished, revisit Demi's Marco Polo or Russell Freedman's The Adventures of Marco Polo. Or simply enjoy Pritelli's artwork, mistily evoking Venice and other locales (their current names above each spread) in earth, sky, and water tones.
VERDICT An odd but distinctive take on Polo and the role of truth in storytelling. An additional purchase for narrative nonfiction collections.

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