These books about countries with violent conflicts-one largely resolved, the other ongoing-begin promisingly with brief overviews that aim for dispassionateness. However, the one-size-fits-all chapter structure that soon takes over, covering landscape, climate, population, government, education, economy, culture, and more, ensures that while these titles will be useful for reports, they fail to increase children's real understanding of either Israel or South Africa. The information presented will not give readers insight into, for example, what life might be like in a small South African town with almost 50 percent unemployment, or for a Palestinian child living in the West Bank, or for a Jewish Israeli in the Golan. Particularly in the case of Israel , the tone of the historical and political account is bland, favoring the status quo, and one gets little sense of the trauma and pain caused by the conflict on either side. In South Africa , the government mishandling of the HIV/AIDS crisis is downplayed, and the largely upbeat tone, especially in the section on the economy, does not illuminate the everyday realities of the lives of the majority of people. Full-color photos are clear and adequately captioned. Each title has a country map and a number of charts illustrating economic data. The time line for South Africa begins in 8000 B.C.E., while the one for Israel begins in the 1890s with the founding of the Zionist movement. There are no source notes.
Sue GiffardCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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