Despite its brevity, a carefully balanced biography of the tsar (1672-1725) who opened communication between Russia and the rest of Europe. Stanley emphasizes the events in Peter's life most likely to interest children--e.g., the war games he played at 13, with an army of boys and real guns, and his trip ""in disguise"" to learn ship carpentry in Holland (even without his retinue of 250, his 6'7"" height would have betrayed him). But she also makes his contradictory character and importance clear: an innovator who not only collected technology all over Europe but also made hands-on acquaintance with it; a reformer who built schools, roads, and vineyards, funded by merciless taxation; a visionary who planned one of the world's most beautiful cities in order to have a base for his new navy, yet a tyrant who did it at deplorable human cost. Still, he made important steps toward treating women as social equals, ""changed Russia forever,"" and was mourned at his death. Stanley's jewel-like pictures give vivid impressions of Russian landscapes and interiors, dwelling on rich ornament and avoiding visual reference to poverty or the other miseries with which the period was fraught. Like Fritz's brief biographies of famous Americans, this is an excellent introduction to an important figure.