It is by no means a patronizing judgment to say this would be a good book for children -- it has a genial enthusiasm for exploration and politics all too missing in textbook accounts of the age of discovery. Nominally focused toward the Louisiana Purchase, the book ranges from the psychology of various Spanish explorers to Louis XIV's preference for spending billions on seizing a few more acres of Europe, instead of systematically expanding New World colonies. Sprague has a good and affectionate time with the ""elastic"" -- mot juste -- Thomas Jefferson while the book hints, rather than says, that the Purchase essentially represented a loan to France. Indian lore, diplomatic scurries, cartographic problems. . . a pleasant exercise in discursive history.