CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 20 . . . . June 8, 2001
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree Publishing, 2001.
Grades 4 - 9 / Ages 9 - 14.
excerpt: (from Nigeria, the Culture)
Members of traditional religions believe that their families are descended from the spirits of objects found in nature. The animal or plant that is the family's ancestor is called a totem. People often carry small carvings of their totems, which identify them as members of a particular family or group. A family's totem is considered sacred. For example, if a family's totem is a lion, family members are forbidden to harm lions.Written in mini-series format, each set of books celebrates the beauty of the featured country and the diversity of its people. Averaging 12 chapters, each of the titles includes a table of contents, a glossary and an index. Vibrant, full-colour photographs, diagrams and maps, all suitably labelled, enhance the text. In fact, in many cases, the photographs could even stand on their own. The text, written in fairly simple language, is fluent and interesting. All of the series books have the same format, in layout, text font and style. Though there are some differences in topics covered (due to the unique features, problems or contributions of the various countries), generally, the range of topics is similar. A particular strength of the series is that it portrays each country in a realistic manner, flaws and all. One example is the "India" series. Though the country, itself, is very rich and colourful in its traditions, poverty remains an important social issue.
Books on the land contain information on the physical features, climate, people, major cities, flora and fauna, natural resources, industry and transportation of each country.
In the titles on people, the focus is on the variety of lifestyles of the nation's inhabitants, including their religion, daily life, food, schools, clothing, sports and pastimes. These volumes portray the featured countries as lands of many contrasts: rich versus poor, city life versus country life, and modern versus ancient traditions. Nigeria's volume is especially interesting as there are so many different types of dwellings and unusual foods, depending on the areas of the country where the people live. Even the languages vary, and people are known to change to another language mid-sentence.
The culture books begin with a history of the country and often include a section on famous people from ancient times to the present. Information on major religions and their holidays, traditions and celebrations serves to give readers a better understanding of the diverse cultures around the world. Equal billing is given to all of each country's people and religions. Art, music, theatre, dance, architecture and language are also highlighted as well as the contributions that the people have made to global society. (For example, Argentina elected the first female president of the western world and boasts several Nobel Prize winners in chemistry and medicine; China's many contributions include paper, silk, fireworks, kites and the abacus as well as alternative cures for disease, such as acupuncture.)
Kalman has successfully captured the flavour of each of the countries highlighted. This excellent series is designed to foster an understanding and greater appreciation of world communities. Its format will be helpful to students searching for specific information.
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.
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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.