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Children's LiteratureThis 16 volume set covers an amazing array of almost 750 topics. This is truly an encyclopedia of health and not strictly a medical reference. Within the six major areas noted in the Thematic Table of Contents (Body; Illness, Injury, and Disorders; Prevention and Cure; Pregnancy, Birth, and Childhood; Human Behavior; and Diet and Nutrition) one finds a variety of articles in areas such as hygiene, emotions, health promotion, health professions, and environmental health. This is in addition to the more usual articles on parts of the body and particular medical disorders. It is a visually vibrant set, with many lively color photos and clear diagrams. Some of the photos are quite graphic (diseased organs, surgeries, etc.). This may be attractive to many middle school children but could be a problem for the squeamish. Volume 1 includes a Table of Contents for the entire set as well as a very helpful section entitled, "How to Use These Volumes." Most articles range from a quarter of a page to two pages in length, but scattered throughout are twelve more in-depth pieces (six to eleven pages) on topics such as "Careers in Health and Medicine," "Mental Health," and Preventive Medicine." The final volume features a special twenty-seven page article on "First Aid" as well as a glossary, a resource list, and a comprehensive index. There are numerous helpful cross references in many of the articles, but they are far from exhaustive. For instance, there is a quarter-page article on "Designer Drugs" but no cross reference between that and the eleven-page article on "Drugs and Drug Abuse." At times it is hard not to wonder why certain decisions were made concerning space allocation. While"Mammography" rates more than two pages, and "Jet Lag" more than one page, "Hypertension" is squeezed into a half page, even though it is a serious and widespread health problem in the United States. Similarly, a full page is allotted for "Munchausen's Syndrome" (a rare disorder in which repeated treatment is sought for non-existent diseases) but "Strept Throat" rates only a quarter of a page, in spite of the fact that is both a common childhood ailment, and one, which if left untreated, can lead to very serious problems. There is no entry for "Homosexuality"; it is only defined very briefly under "Sexuality." Whatever one may think about this issue, it seems strange to simply ignore such a controversial and basic subject in an encyclopedia of this scope. There is also dated and inaccurate material in some of the articles. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is touted as a good treatment for osteoporosis without any mention of the risks. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is listed as "Obsessive-Compulsive Neurosis" and is touted as a behavioral problem (caused perhaps by a neurotic mother), with no mention of more recent evidence that there may be a biochemical element to this mental illness. Similarly, the article on "Autism" simply states "no one knows what causes this." No reference is made to the possibility of a link (albeit controversial) between the mercury-based vaccine preservative thimerosal and autism. Marijuana is called "a narcotic or mood-affecting drug" which implies that "narcotic" and "mood-affecting" are synonymous, which they are not. Pharmacologically, marijuana is not classified as a narcotic (although legally it is, but this is a health, and not a legal, encyclopedia). In spite of these sorts of limitations, this encyclopedia remains for the most part a fine age-appropriate reference work, attractively packaged and easy to use. 2003, Marshall Cavendish, $329.95. Ages 9 to 14.
—Dawn Elizabeth Hunt