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Children's LiteratureThe newly inaugurated "World Art & Culture" series currently explores India, Africa, Japan and Mexico. Geared for middle school libraries, the volumes sport bright reinforced bindings and back matter of further resources, glossaries, and indices. The content has been standardized: one establishing map followed by brief synopses of architecture, textiles, painting, various crafts, music and/or theatre and film, and cross-currents—which briefly attempt to explain influences to other cultures. The African volume was a tough one to tackle. As the author points out upfront, it is a continent of over 1,000 languages with vast climactic differences between the Saharan north and the tropical south—all of which is going to drastically affect its various cultures. A brief essay on pre and post-colonization is followed by a heavy emphasis on arts of sub-Saharan Africa. Here's a case where creating two volumes instead of one would have been useful since the rich Arabic-influenced architecture and arts of the north have been totally ignored. Finally, this volume—and the others—lacks a second, critical map: one which would site the historically and architecturally significant regions being described. Still, the effort is a reasonable beginning for addressing in more depth a subject usually rushed over in most country surveys. 2003, Raintree, Ages 10 to 14.
— Kathleen Karr