"You're a Regular Marco Polo!"

  My friend Sally is gathering books for her homeschool this fall and she asked me if I had anything on Marco Polo.  I excitedly told her about a living book on Marco Polo that we used a few years ago for Geography and of course, I want to tell you about it, too!  The book is titled He Went With Marco Polo  - A Story of Venice and Cathay by Louise Andrews Kent.  The story is told through the eyes of Tonio, a young traveling companion of Marco Polo.

"Here is not merely an account of travels and high adventure but also a story of character, of a man of honesty and courage.  Seen through the eyes of Tonio, the young companion of Marco Polo, who is the hero of the story, the great Venetian traveler is a character to inspire boys and girls of today." - from the dust jacket

Written in 1935, it is "lavishly illustrated" by Baldrige and Quinn. I wouldn't exactly say "lavishly", but the woodcut-type illustrations are adequate.  We used Milton Rugoff's book, Marco Polo's Adventures in China to look at maps, pictures and places mentioned in He Went With Marco Polo.

All the famous tales are covered in Kent's book, from the golden apples to the fog in the desert.  Our favorite was the slightly disturbing chapter "Rope Trick".  We did some further research on that one because the children were so interested in this seemingly impossible and murderous magic trick. (For those interested, here's an explanation.)

Parents and kids alike will enjoy the Introduction in which Kent gives some background for the book.  She says:
"When Marco got back to Venice, where he lived,he told people all about the new places and queer people he had seen.  They didn't believe him.  They made fun of him.  If one boy wanted to call another a liar, he would say: 'You're a regular Marco Polo!'"
See if your students catch the dichotomy between Polo's eventual reputation for exaggeration (lying?) and the esteemed character given him in much of children's literature. Nonetheless, this book cemented Polo's path in the children's minds and they enjoyed reading it daily.

Louise Andrews Kent also wrote a few other stories in this same format.  I'll conclude with a list of those titles:
  • (1935) He went with Marco Polo: A Story of Venice and Cathay
  • (1940) He went with Christopher Columbus
  • (1943) He went with Magellan
  • (1947) He went with Vasco da Gama
  • (1959) He went with Champlain
  • (1961) He went with Drake
  • (1967) He went with Hannibal


  1. Great book that I haven't heard of.
    Thank you for the lesson too.
    Do you have the others in the series?

  2. Yes - I have the Christopher Columbus book, also! I'd like them all, but they aren't very easy to find.

  3. We're adoring our study of Marco Polo this year. Hadn't heard of this book though. Thanks!

  4. I have the Columbus book as well, Of course I have never read it but I will add it to the worthies list! I do recall that book looking a bit dense in type which might intimidate a less confident reader.

  5. I'm putting it on my list for when my next one comes to Marco Polo...

    woohoo! love these book recommendations!

    amy in peru

  6. I'm even more excited to study Marco Polo after reading this! Thanks for the books Nancy!

    Jeanne - what books are you using for Marco Polo?

  7. Jmtinsd-
    We used this as a read-aloud and a young elementary student might be intimidated by the text. I would say the self-reading level would be middle school or maybe upper elementary. Thanks for mentioning that!

  8. Sounds like a great book! My kids and I love when they cover history from a kids point of view, and an adventure to boot! We'll have to check it, and maybe some of the others you listed out this year. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Nancy,
    Have you read the Komroff version recommended on AO? A couple people I know love that version and now I'm torn.

  10. Naomi,
    I've seen it, but haven't used it. I think they are quite different. Maybe you could get them side-by-side, read the first chapters of each and then decide???

  11. My mom and sister have been reading a great book about a husband and wife who followed in the footsteps of Marco Polo in modern times, and had grand and amazing adventures, just like Marco Polo. The title is, "After You, Marco Polo" I believe, and they may be interested in this book you're talking about as well. Thank you for sharing this with us!