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Children's LiteratureThis well-illustrated overview of the Roman army briefly covers its history, the soldier and his weapons, the ways the army functioned in peace and in war, and the end of the Roman Empire. Each double page spread is a lively combination of major text headed for easy browsing, such as "Protection," "War at Sea," or "Hannibal." Within these topics, information is dealt with in headed paragraphs, diagrams, captioned pictures some of which are painted or drawn rather than archival. A child-appealing feature of this series is the use of enactors to show readers what a testudo, or tortoise-like arrangement of shields, looked like in defense maneuvers, or how a ballista was operated. With its open format and more predictable type of illustration, this book appeals to a slightly younger and less sophisticated reader than does Dyan Blacklock's The Roman Army: The Legendary Soldiers Who Created an Empire (Walker, 2004). A feature of the "Usborne Discovery" series is that many of the pages are linked directly to online information accessible through Usborne's portal so readers can see a Roman army re-enactment or learn more about Hannibal and Carthage. There are plenty of two-line interesting facts scattered throughout the book that encourage less able readers to browse and talk about what they are learning. A section on people, "Leaders and losers," reviews some of the more well-known people who led or fought the Romans, and an index is included. No glossary, but Latin words are italicized and defined in context. 2003, Usborne Publishing, Ages 8 to 12.
—Susan Hepler, Ph.D.