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Children's LiteratureAGERANGE: Ages 9 to 12.
For middle readers just beginning a serious study of geography and cartography, the "World Atlases" series offers eight volumes of colorful maps showing seven continents and the polar regions. Each book has thirteen double-page spreads, starting with an introduction to map conventions and symbols (e.g., compass rose, legend, tropics, the equator, scale of distances). The political map of Europe shows the world's largest country (Russia) and many tiny ones, surrounded by their flags. Other spreads present maps of Europe's landforms, bodies of water (e.g., the Danube, the Dnieper, the Baltic Sea), climate, and major ecosystems, which include a selection of European animals and plants. Especially interesting is the population map, showing Europe as a densely-populated continent, although it is nearly the smallest in area. A "People and Customs" spread tells a bit about Europe's diverse cultures and includes pictures of the Roma people, the Sami of Lapland, and cheese makers in the Netherlands. Designed as a bulletin board, a postcard page displays touristy views of attractions like the Alhambra and Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. A products map reveals that Europeans work in agriculture, manufacturing, forestry, oil and gas production, and tourism, while a transportation map shows how they get around on waterways and railways. As a finale, the last spread takes readers on a trip on the Orient Express, though the looming black engine detracts from its supposed glamour. Summing it all up is a final page of brief European facts and a glossary. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft