In the ""First Book"" series, two utilitarian texts following the same framework: initial chapters trace the civilizations' most important achievements--in China, gunpowder, printing, the compass; in Egypt, the Pyramids. Subsequent chapters discuss advances in the pure sciences (mathematics and astronomy) and technology (medicine, agriculture, architecture, crafts, etc.). Information is given clearly, under broad headings, and is liberally illustrated with relevant photos of artifacts plus diagrams as needed. Important individuals are mentioned; inventions and ideas are placed in the context of the civilization under discussion--as well as in light of the relative advances of contemporary civilizations. This factual information is delivered in flat, practical prose; little mention is made of cultural or social milieus, and there is no philosophizing to get in the way of the basics needed for homework. Still, the chapters that place the technologies in the context of modern life will be especially useful. Index.