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Children's LiteratureBy taking a world-wide view of the Middle Ages, this book provides a few surprises along with solid and interesting basic information. For one thing, populations in major towns in Europe numbered in five figures; major cities in Asia and North America were measured in six figures. At one time, the largest city, with a population of 200,000, was the Aztec capital in what is now Mexico. For another example, one of the oldest schools of higher learning in the world was in Cairo. Markets and fairs are described in words and pictures, along with information about how goods were measured and paid for. Paper money was used in China 800 years before it became popular in England! A sidebar on money explains what happened to merchants who failed to pay back loans, shaved money from coins, or sold shoddy merchandise. Descriptions of the Silk and Spice trade routes are enhanced with a colorful map. People who traveled were mostly merchants or pilgrims, nobles or crusaders. The ultimate travelers were the explorers. The segment on transportation even includes Medieval highway rules. The book is printed to look as if it were on parchment with attractive Florentine border. Many illustrations appear to be from Medieval documents. Most unfamiliar terms are printed in boldface and defined in the text. A glossary is included, as well as a time line, and an index. Too bad there's no bibliography. 2004, Crabtree Publishing Company, Ages 7 to 14.
—Janet Crane Barley