Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Gory Story of Genghis Khan

The Gory Story of Genghis Khan a.k.a. Don't Mess with the Mongols  
Nayanika Mahtani
Puffin India
Age- 9 plus

When I heard the name of the book I expected something like the Horrible History series or the Duckbill historical fiction set. Instead here is a book that is rendered in a style and format, all its own.

It takes a close look at what drove the outcast child Temujin to become Genghis Khan, the conqueror of one sixth of the world! While not condoning his ways, it throws light on his foresight and adaptability. It humanizes one of history's leading villains and tells you that despite his failings, he had surprisingly commendable qualities- his respect for women, the religious tolerance he extended, the horse-powered postal system he started, the spy network that flourished under his rule and more.

There are many information nuggets dropped casually -from clothing to cultural norms to army tactics that existed then. Some scenes come with a "do not try it at home" clause but parents of younger readers could emphasize the message!

My only worry was that children may celebrate him like an unlikely hero - sort of like a Robinhood- but the atrocities are laid out openly for all to read.

The protagonist makes the read quite a ride. The puns are wonderfully witty and the tone is light for a subject who is distasteful in his ruthlessness. 

The breaking news format with Yuherdit Hearfirst and the narrator Yakkety Yak, the rap- like songs and rhymes, use of 'yakoo' to explain difficult words, are charming, clever, contemporary touches that would appeal to today's readers. The puns are there all over, some may get missed by the younger reader but they add irreverent fun to what could have been a drab narrative ( a traditional history text). 

The illustrations by Tapas Guha are apt and the book cover by Devangana Dash looks gory enough to get children curious. The closing notes, alongside the map and the family tree, will entice you to look up on more such books.

I am sure we can expect more in this series from the author. 
Would be a good read aloud in schools too!

This is based on a review copy but it is my candid opinion of the book


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