CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 5 . . . . October 29, 2004
Many people visit Land's End as part of a challenge to travel from one end of Great Britain to the other. Land's End is the southernmost point of their journey, and John O'Groats, in Scotland, is the northernmost point. People have made this trip on foot, in wheelbarrows, on bicycles, on motorcycles, and in cars. The record for walking is twelve days, and the record for cycling is 44 hours. One man even tried to crawl while he pushed a pea with his nose. It hurt his nose so much that he gave up after only one mile (1.6 kilometers)!
Part of the "Land, People and Cultures" series, these books, averaging 12 chapters each, provide information on a wide variety of topics. Though there is some overlap amongst the titles, the series is an excellent resource for students who are studying another part of the world and its culture. Each book has a table of contents, an index and a glossary as well as wonderful, abundant photographs and maps which not only suit the text but also bring the information to life.
Topics in England: The Land include geography (and explanations of the differences between downs, moors, fens, bogs and heaths), climate, people and economy. Major cities such as London, Liverpool and Birmingham (home of Cadbury chocolates and Wedgewood china) are featured along with information about England's industry, three of the best-known companies manufacturing Jaguars, Rolls-Royces and Royal Doulton china. Stonehenge, a popular tourist destination, is one of several famous attractions discussed, along with various modes of transportation, including the "Chunnel", referring to the high speed trains that transport people across the English Channel underwater. Other topics are farming, fishing, flora and fauna.
England: The People traces England's history from the time of the Roman Empire to the present day. The varied ethnic backgrounds of the people, especially those of recent immigrants, contributes to the interesting mix of cultures within the country. City life is contrasted with country life, with its quaint thatched cottages. Family celebrations, schools and sports, the most popular being English football (North American soccer), rugby, cricket, polo and tennis, are also covered in this title. Readers will get a chuckle out of the names for certain foods, "bangers" and "bubble and squeak" to name a few.
England: The Culture focuses on religion, from the arrival of the Celts in 700 B.C. to Christianity and other religions that are practiced today. A look at religious holidays and festivals takes readers from the past, when the druids held ceremonies at Stonehenge, to the present, when people celebrate such holidays as May Day and Guy Fawkes Day. Some of the festivals will be new to readers, two examples being the Nottingham Goose Festival and the Notting Hill Festival which celebrates the Caribbean culture. The contributions of the English to art, architecture (especially cathedrals and industrial buildings), music and theater are also highlighted in this book. Henry Moore, Gilbert and Sullivan, the Beatles, William Shakespeare, Alfred Hitchcock and the Bronté sisters are just a few of the famous people mentioned. Finally, the book discusses the evolution of the English language and its many dialects. Readers will be amused by the English terms for common objects- crisps (potato chips), jumper (sweater) and trainers (running shoes or sneakers).
Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean and, according to Christopher Columbus, the most beautiful island in the Antilles. In Cuba: The Land, topics include the varied geography — beaches, swamps, coral reefs, cave systems and more —, the climate, complete with hurricanes, and a brief history of the arrival of Cuba's early inhabitants from South America, Spain, Africa and France. Havana and other major cities are covered, along with information about Cuba's economy (and its role as a world leader in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals), farming, fishing and wildlife. Two of the country's best-known crops, sugar cane, used for making molasses, rum and white sugar, and tobacco, used in the manufacture of world-famous Cuban cigars, are featured.
A history of the early islanders to Cuba's present-day inhabitants leads readers into the title called Cuba: The People. A description of the hardships faced by the people, specifically slavery and living under the Communist regime, follows. (This is the one section which youngsters might find difficult to comprehend, despite the information's being presented in a simple fashion.) The remainder of the book is devoted to country versus city life, schools, sports (the most popular, by far, being baseball), food and family celebrations. One interesting celebration, known as "quince," honouring 15-year-old girls, who are now considered old enough to begin dating, is likened to a wedding because the girls' families spend almost as much money on their daughters' gowns and the parties as they would for a wedding dress and wedding reception.
In Cuba: The Culture, there is an emphasis on festivals, many of which are political in origin, and religious holidays, including Carnaval. Readers will learn about Cuba's most widely practiced religion, Santeria, a combination of Roman Catholic and the ancient Yoruban, which matches Roman Catholic saints with Yoruban spirits. Also featured is information about instruments and styles of music (bolero, rumba, mambo and salsa, to name a few), architecture (largely influenced by the Spanish), language, literature, film and art. Particularly unique to Cuba is cigar box art, intricate pictures and designs commissioned for use on exported boxes of cigars.
Despite some of the overlap in information, interesting text and fabulous photographs combine to make each set of the series a worthwhile purchase.
Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian at Bird's Hill School in East St. Paul, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.