Italy’s famous horse race, the Palio di Siena, serves as background for a medieval child’s first experience with a banker.
Both the race and banking are misrepresented here. Concerned that the toy he’s persuaded his papa to buy will be damaged by the festive crowds, Enzo asks a money-changer seated at his banco (table) to mind it—then manages to lose the essential receipt. Enzo frets, but (in an ending that is likely to excite skepticism in modern, or at least adult, readers) after the race’s wild celebrations, the grave graybeard gives the toy back anyway. Landmann’s illustrations, done in Renaissance Sienese style, outclass the sketchy storyline with scenes of cocked-headed, olive-skinned figures in elegant period robes placed in narrow medieval streets decked with simplified flags of the localities, the contrade, that compete in the event to this day. Still, even she gives the money-changer a cash box but neither ledger nor scales. In closing notes the author conflates the modern Palio with its medieval predecessors and makes a decidedly arguable claim that modern banking is a Sienese invention.
Visually evocative of time and place but spoiled by apparently incomplete research and debatable historical claims. (afterword, timeline) (Picture book. 6-8)