Each of the books in Cavendish's "Cultures of the World" series offers substantial coverage of multiple topics along with attractive color photos and several maps. Especially interesting in this series are the environmental chapters and others on language, lifestyles, festivals, and the arts. In Laos, readers will learn about the landlocked country's mountains, plateaus and forests, its royal past with many invasions, French colonialism, American bombing during the Vietnam War, and its recent Communist government. Environmental problems explored in this book include deforestation, destruction from dams, and decline of its abundant wildlife. The authors find that, though Laos is one of the poorest countries of the world, the diverse and resourceful Laotian people are able to maintain their traditional lifestyles and produce enough food for themselves; since 1986, the government has reached out to other countries for trade, tourism, and foreign aid. Laos's rich artistic heritage includes music and dance, gilded woodcarving, colorful textiles, and impressive temples. (Oddly, readers are not shown the magical golden spires of Pha That Luang, the symbol of Laos.) Though their cuisine resembles Thailand's, Laotians use their own fresh vegetables and condiments, sticky rice, and fresh Mekong fish, while retaining a taste for French baguettes; recipes are offered for green papaya salad and steamed pumpkin-coconut custard. Overall, Laotians are portrayed as a conservative but artistic and easy-going people who are just beginning to experience urban life and western technology. Maps, a timeline, and fact pages provide helpful information in this well-produced series. Reviewer:Barbara L. Talcroft
- Uma Krishnaswami
Part of the publisher's "Cultures of the World" series, this information-packed book carries the reader to the only land-locked country in Southeast Asia. Chapters divide the content in a fairly traditional manner, into Geography, History, Lifestyle, Religion, and so on. Photographs add richness to the text, as do maps, quick notes on geographical and political facts, a glossary, a bibliography, and an index. An interesting presentation of a fascinating place and its many cultures. This series includes an array of titles from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.