CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 10. . . .November 8, 2013
As the introduction quoted above states, this book is a compendium of “top 10” statistics on the subjects of machines, music, animals, structures, games, movies, sports, space, nature, and human achievement. Compiled in the style of the late Russell Ash, the top 10 lists are augmented by full-colour photo montages on every page, all in double-page spread format, on glossy paper with full edge bleed. There are also related activities to try, fact boxes, and spaces for readers to add in their own ratings, lists, and experiences.
The design and layout of this book is intentionally over-the-top, with a hyperbolic writing style presented in short bursts in text boxes that make it impossible to read in a linear fashion. But that is the point: the audience is not the reader of novels, but the young person who voraciously devours multiple media and ideas simultaneously—almost the Web in print format. The facts are endlessly fascinating, very up-to-date, presenting some very international surprises. The most expensive railway systems and tallest buildings are now all in East Asia; North Korea has the missile with the longest range! Occasionally, a modern environmental conscious creeps in, as with the top 10 priority endangered species as per the WWF. And in research that could not have happened until the past decade, the top 10 most popular sports stars are ranked according to the number of Facebook “likes” they’ve garnered!
There are a few details that seem not terribly well thought out. Some lists are called “unofficial” because they are just the author’s impressions—interesting, but some readers might wonder why his opinions matter so much. In a fact box talking about looting after the top 10 biggest earthquakes, there is a line that takes several readings to understand: “in some cases, people have come together to see lost items returned”. As a book originally published in the UK, the non-North American focus is refreshing, but for the Canadian edition to list the top 10 tallest buildings but not the top 10 tallest structures (with the CN Tower likely #1) is a bit jarring. Likewise, the top 10 shipwrecks lists the Edmund Fitzgerald as sinking in the United States whereas the Lake Superior disaster occurred in Canadian waters.
Some educators, parents, and librarians may also wonder if it is starting to seem just a tad anachronistic to explicitly call this a book “for boys”. Most will applaud the appeal it has for most boys and gratefully use it to hook reluctant readers. But some might worry that the occasional boy who’s uninterested, or girl who wants to read it, might feel uncomfortable with the title splashed across the cover. Nonetheless, the power of this incredibly entertaining, fascinating, even educational, book cannot be underestimated.
Todd Kyle is the CEO of the Newmarket Public Library in Ontario.
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