Title: Priceless Gifts
Author: Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss
Illustrator: John Kanzler
Publisher: August House
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level: 3.9
Concepts: gains from trade, exchange, needs
Review: Many years ago, an Italian merchant named Antonio set sail for the Spice Islands (which today are part of Indonesia) with the intent of exchanging some fine Italian wares for a variety of highly-prized exotic spices. While engaged in his trades for cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, he received an invitation on one of the islands to dine with the King. Unfortunately the island’s infestation of rats halted the evening’s pleasantries until Antonio presented the King with two of the ship’s cats. Delighted with this solution to the island’s rodent problem, the King rewarded Antonio with a chest filled with precious gemstones. Upon hearing about this incredible payment for two cats, a rival Italian merchant thought he could gain even more jewels by giving the King some true Italian treasures, but he learned the hard way what the King valued.
This amusing adaptation of a cherished folktale serves as a useful vehicle for teaching children a standard lesson in economics about the gains from trade. Antonio got spices, which were much sought-after in Europe, in exchange for Italian goods, which the Islanders did not produce themselves. The second trade made both parties even happier, with Antonio gaining a chest full of jewels and the King securing an end to the rat problem. Priceless Gifts offers a clever mix of economics, history, and story-telling in a cheerfully-illustrated package.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children