cover image Stephen Biesty's Cross-Sections Castle

Stephen Biesty's Cross-Sections Castle

Richard Platt, Stephen Biesty, Roger Platt. DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley), $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-56458-467-0

A knight or a baron may dwell in the 14th-century castle lovingly recreated here, but Platt and Biesty's (Stephen Biesty's Cross-Sections Man-of-War) latest book is, quite simply, fit for a king. In the style of the previous Cross-Sections titles, each oversized spread shows a cutaway view of an area of a quintessential castle and is organized around a central theme (e.g., ``Building the Castle,'' ``Livestock and Produce,'' ``Weapons and Punishment''). Biesty brings a jeweler's eye to his seemingly infinitely detailed illustrations, while Platt supplies punchy bite-sized text blocks to highlight information about the edifice itself as well as those who lived within its walls. They introduce the ale connor, who would test the purity of the beer by pouring a bit onto a bench and then sitting on it; low-quality beer would be sugary and would glue the connor's leather breeches to the bench. Hunting dogs, Platt states, lived in heated kennels and ate specially baked bread; hot water was such a luxury that even a 13th-century English king bathed no more than once every three weeks. Easy frames of reference (a suit of armor ``cost about the same as a car costs today'') help the reader assimilate these disparate facts, and Biesty and Platt are sure to please the younger members of their audience with their candor about such subjects as latrines and methods of torture. A challenge to find the enemy spy who lurks amid the packed spreads is icing on the cake. Ages 8-up. (Sept.)