Children's Literature - Elisabeth GreenbergThis well-written and organized title in "Cultures of the World" series presents, for the most part, a dry factual account of major aspects of Syrian culture. Chapter topics include geography, history, government, economy, environment, Syrians, lifestyle, religion, language, arts, leisure, festivals, and food. The informative text is supplemented by maps, key facts about the economy and culture, a time line, a glossary, resources, and a bibliography. Information presented to school age audiences should be immediately accessible, but some confusion results from not ordering the information. For example, reference is made to Alawis and Alawites twice before page 82 where Alawi is explained as a secretive Islamic sect originating in Syria, one that celebrates Christian holidays such as Easter and Christmas. Alawi does not appear in the glossary for those students who might stop and question its meaning in the early portions of the book. Picture captions may not be accurately or specifically referenced; for example, the photo of a prayer rug looks more like machine-woven Syrian tapestry often sold throughout the Middle East as cushion covering rather than a prayer rug, while the photo on the baklava recipe page does not match the recipe description. After explaining the local fast food shwaerma, a photo of a restaurant cook slicing the meat for shwaerma only states "cutting strips of meat in a souk" rather than connecting the visual information to the previous text information. However, the section on the differences in language usage would go far to explain cultural differences to students, and the more culturally oriented chapters have useful sidebars, such as "Making aParty," that highlight specific Syrian traditions.
School Library Journal - School Library JournalGr 6-10Straightforward, up-to-date overviews of two Arab nations. In addition to the standard coverage of country books, these well-written texts address the changing roles of women; marriage and funeral customs; examples of typical wages; and the manner in which different social, ethnic, and religious groups interact with one another. The attractive layout features a high-quality full-color photo on each page. Pastel-colored blocks of text give more in-depth information about high-interest topics. An uncluttered physical map of the country is useful, as is a world map that shows the nation's relative size and continent placement. A ``Quick Note'' section outlines major statistics and ready-reference facts. Arabic words are defined in the text and in the glossary. Two valuable additions that flesh out cultures that Americans need to know more about.Sandra L. Doggett, Urbana High School, Walkersville, MD
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