Religion does not permeate education in the US as it did in the early years of our country, and to a degree through the first half of this century. Nevertheless, kids are naturally curious and that curiosity extends to religion. The editors have prepared an encyclopedia of almost 500 entries that provide factual and impartial information about world religions, their traditions, rites, holidays, sacred books, major tenets, leaders and other useful data. In addition, there are short essays on major themes such as Afterlife, Birth Rituals, Heaven, Hell, Miracles and the like, and comparative entries discuss features that appear in several religions. Although it is a reference work and is not intended to be read cover to cover like a novel, the discussions of theoretical entries and those describing religious movements do need to be read consecutively. There are plenty of cross-references to provide connections and to roam further afield. As the introduction states "In selecting entries, the editors have kept in mind that young people are especially interested in topics that address the world in which they live." Thus, general entries focus on the religions in America where appropriate.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-This encyclopedia presents discussions that are unbiased and succinct, reflects modern scholarship and current problems, and includes areas related to religious practices as well as definitions of the religions themselves. And it's interesting to read. Included are the ancient religions (e.g., Aztec, Greek, Egyptian), the major religions (e.g., Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Taoism), indigenous and hybrid religions, and new religions (e.g., Baha'i, Scientology). Excellent comparative essays discuss topics (e.g., the sun, moon, music, dance, sexuality, abortion, science) as they impact upon religious practices. Precepts such as God, eschatology, heaven, and initiation rituals are examined, and other examples of interesting materials such as fairies, tricksters, and clowning are presented. Modern thinkers include Mircea Eliade, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Karl Marx. Entries vary in length from a paragraph to several pages and cross-referencing is extensive. A selected topical bibliography and a thorough index are appended. Certain omissions are surprising. Stonehenge and the Easter Island statues are barely mentioned. The occasional black-and-white illustrations include artwork, maps, and photographs, some of which are poorly reproduced. Overall, however, this is a fine ready-reference resource.-Patricia Pearl Dole, formerly at First Presbyterian School, Martinsville, VA
This impressive volume on the world's religions attempts to be simple, interesting, and "not partial to the point of view of one religious tradition or another." Beginning with the entry Aaron, the brother of Moses, and ending with Zoroastrianism, a religion begun in Iran by the prophet Zarathustra, this encyclopedia aptly presents religions in two ways: from the "outside" (history, teachings, practices, and organization) and "inside" (the feelings of the believers, the way they look at the world, and "the things that are actually important in their religious lives"). Ellwood and Alles's thorough approach to their vast subject answers the questions that teenagers have about religion. A helpful topical outline follows; it groups the entries according to main headings: "Buddhism," "Christianity," "Confucianism," "Hinduism," "Judaism," etc., making even more accessible this informative and comprehensive reference work. (b&w charts, maps, photographs, index, not seen, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 13- 15)