Warrior Princess: The Story of Khutulun

by Sally Deng (Author)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

An empowering and informative picture book biography about Khutulun, the great-great granddaughter of Genghis Khan, and how she defied the expectations of her time to become commander of the Khan's army.

Just like the fourteen brothers that came before her, Khutulun, princess of her tribe, learned from an early age how to ride horseback, shoot arrows at full gallop and, most importantly, to wrestle. But as she grew older, her people wondered why their beloved princess had not yet married. So Khutulun vowed to marry any man that could defeat her at wrestling. Though she remained undefeated, Khutulun felt duty bound to throw a match to end the rumors and restore honor to her family. But when the day arrives, Khutulun's heart is torn. In the heat of battle, would she-could she-make the decision to become a wife and not a warrior?

A story based on the life and legend of Khutulun, Warrior Princess is an inspiring tale of a princess who realizes that sometimes the best way to serve one's community is to stay true to oneself and defy their expectations, brought to life by Sally Deng's lush, sweeping paintings and additional backmatter about Khutlun's life.

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Kirkus Reviews

Forceful and compelling.


Khutulun's story shines, accompanied by the beautiful illustrations which help contextualize the cultural elements of the story and evoke a distant but familiar place.

Publishers Weekly

Khutulun, Princess of Mongolia and great-great-granddaughter to Genghis Khan, trains every day with her 14 older brothers, who all seek to become warriors. She finds horseback riding "as natural as breathing," becomes an excellent archer even though hunting "was usually a boy's responsibility," and exhibits great prowess in wrestling, defeating opponents twice her size. She also excels at her studies, "learning multiple languages and military strategies" that her mother says would make her a savvy leader, but dreams of being a warrior. At 16, Khutulun accompanies her father to the battlefield, emerging victorious, only to face the specter of expected marriage. Khutulun vows to marry the prospect who defeats her in a wrestling match, taking 10 horses from whomever she beats until she amasses an enormous herd. When rumors nevertheless swirl, Khutulun must find a way to honor her family and be true to herself. Lush acrylic and colored pencil art by Deng (Yusra Swims) expertly carries the legend of Khutulun across the page--one can feel the rush as she charges to drag a man off his horse in battle. An informative and inspiring picture book biography about an empowered--and empowering--princess. Back matter includes an author's note and glossary. Ages 5-7. Agent: Tracy Marchini, BookEnds. (Aug.)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes


Sally Deng
Sally Deng is the author-illustrator of Skyward: Women Pilots in WWII and the illustrator of Yusra Swims. Her illustrations have appeared in various publications including the New York Times, The Atlantic, NPR, Vice, The New Yorker, and Condé Nast Traveler.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr)
Publication date
August 20, 2022
BISAC categories
JNF007050 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Cultural Heritage
JNF007020 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Historical
JNF025030 - Juvenile Nonfiction | History | Asia
JNF007120 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Women
Library of Congress categories
Picture books
Women soldiers
Genghis Khan

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