School Library JournalGr 6 Up-- These titles add color pictures, graphs, and maps to solid information which generally makes them excellent for reports. As always, though, even the best series have their weak spots. The political situation in Afghanistan, for example, makes any book covering history or politics subject to inaccuracy very quickly, although this title is recent enough to include the Soviet withdrawal plans, and honest enough to say that the political situation is in flux. Otherwise, both history (going back to 550 b.c. ) and geography are summarized well, as is ethnic composition, the effect of the war, and the social and religious traditions. China also offers a good summary, but suffers from trying to describe an ancient culture and a huge country with an enormous population in the standard 64 pages, a third of which are devoted to history and government. The book uses Pinyin spellings throughout, and includes a chart of equivalents for common places and historical names. Central African Republic is the weakest of this group. It has more black-and-white photos than the others, and doesn't include the charts that others in the series have, so that while the author quotes statistics about disease, mortality, life expectancy, etc., there are no comparisons to other countries in Africa or other parts of the world. In the discussion of history and government, the book tiptoes around the questions of brutality and corruption in the Bokassa regime, and although it implies it in every way, does not call the present leader, Kolingba, a dictator. The discussion of traditional ways of life (religion, farming methods, etc.) is given short shrift, and the Pygmies are not mentioned as one of the indigenous tribes. Nepal emphasizes religion and cultural anthropology more than others in the series, but even here, the ``Children of the World'' (Stevens) title on Nepal (for much younger children, with none of the other advantages of this title) offers more insight into modern life than this does. Nepal does give enough background for a good report, and gives an idea of the difficulties that face a developing nation in this highly technological age. The series continues to include small, Third World nations that are not always covered in other series, and generally they are reliable sources for papers, but a little too dry for browsers. --Rosanne Cerny, Queens Borough Public Library, N.Y.
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