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When I was a kid, my favorite book was "Knight of the Cross" Olaf, a Viking boy who is seriously injured in his first battle, is healed by a wandering monk on the condition that he join the Crusades.  He grows into a strapping man, learns to wield a sling and a battle ax & wins a great victory by freeing the ramp on a siege engine when the Crusaders are besieging an infidel castle.  Ever since I  have been fascinated by ancient siege engines (this won me beaucoup points from the chairman of the History Department at Colgate, when we had a roughly two hour discussion about Greek Fire & Catapults, my Longbow Theory of Democracy & why everyone misunderstands the story of David and Goliath).

In this book, Jim Paul too is fascinated by catapults and by the concept of  throwing stones for great distances.  He wangles some grant money, recruits his friend Harry and together they build a working catapult & hurl stones off of a cliff in Marin County.  Interspersed with the true story of their project are vignettes from the history of the catapult and siege engines ranging from  Biblical Times to Edward "Hammer of the Scots".

I loved it and I don't think a weird obsession with ancient weapons is required.


Grade: (B)


See also:

Book-related and General Links:
    -REVIEW : of Deus Lo Volt; A Chronicle of the Crusades by Evan S. Connell (Jim Paul, SF Chronicle)

    Hall of Catapults
    Maxwell Middle School (Tucson, AZ) Catapult Project
    Siege Engines
    Siege Engines of the Middle Ages

If you liked Catapult, try:

Beckman, Peter
    -The History of Pi

Boorstin, Daniel
    -The Discoverers

Ferris, Timothy
    -Coming of Age in the Milky Way

Halliburton, Richard
    -The Glorious Adventure

Keegan, John
    -The Face of Battle

Petroski, Henry
    -The Pencil : A History of Design and Circumstance

Rhodes, Richard
    -The Making of the Atomic Bomb

Sobell, Dava
    -Longitude : The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time

Tranter, Nigel
    -The Bruce Trilogy