CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 1 . . . . September 3, 1999
If the 5.5 billion people alive today stood close together, they could all fit into an area no larger than the small Caribbean island of Jamaica. Of course, so many people could not live in such a small place. Areas with few people are usually very cold, such as land near the poles and in mountains, or very dry, such as deserts. Areas with large populations often have fertile land and a good climate for crops. Cities can support huge populations because they are wealthy enough to import everything they need.In a slightly larger, but still trademark, "Eyewitness" format, this book is the collaborative effort of more than 20 cartographers, computer operators, researchers, designers and editors. Following several general chapters, each covering two pages and ranging in topic from the earth in space to climate and vegetation patterns, the book is divided into seven main sections-- North America, Central and South America, Europe, Africa, North and West Asia, South and East Asia, and Oceania. Each section is introduced by a large curvilinear map highlighting a segment of the globe. Abundant, small photographs on the facing page show the varied terrain of the continent. A cross-section of the land, a key to the natural vegetation and a legend are also provided. Drawings of animals and plants which are native to the regions depicted in the photographs appear along a border-type line on the page. Tiny coloured boxes beneath each drawing correspond to similar boxes beside the matching photo.
Within sections, a double-page spread is devoted to each country or region. An introductory paragraph gives some historical and general information about the area; a fair-sized relief map shows major cities, towns, lakes and rivers as well as major industries and natural resources; small photographs depict several of the main foods, sports landmarks and tourist attractions for which the country is well-known. The photographs are labeled with catchy headings, followed by explanatory paragraphs.
In addition to the front end papers which show a map of the world with a guide to map pages, readers are further assisted by a brief, but helpful, section on how to use the atlas. A table of contents, an index, a glossary and a gazetteer, complete with up-to-date facts, are also included. Flags of the world are shown on the end papers at the back of the book.
In typical "Eyewitness" style, the book is loaded with information and not only provides a map of each country, but also helps readers to understand how a country's climate, land forms and position on the earth affect the lifestyles of the people who inhabit it. Political, environmental and social change is also discussed. Generally, the text is easy to read, but occasionally its size is too small. In some places, the vocabulary is a bit difficult.
Over 1,000 colourful photographs, diagrams and artworks serve to capture the flavor of each country and its people. Even though there are so many illustrations, the book's layout is such that it never looks "busy." A word of caution - the maps in this book do not provide the same amount of detail as those in a more conventional atlas.
Very creatively assembled, this book goes far beyond traditional atlas fare. Informative, well-researched and visually appealing.
Gail Hamilton is the teacher-librarian at Bird's Hill School in East St. Paul, MB.
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