This volume from the "Cultures of the World" series consists of twelve chapters and many color photographs, which introduce us to the fascinating island of Madagascar, with its unique flora and fauna and ethnically varied and mixed population. The main chapters in this thorough and well-organized book cover Geography, History, Government, Economy, Malagasy, Lifestyle, Religion, Language, Arts, Leisure, and Festivals. It could be useful for reports, as well as for armchair travelers of a wide age range. An introduction, maps, glossary, bibliography, "Quick Notes" section and index are included.
- Barbara L. Talcroft
One of many such series, Cavendish's "Cultures of the World" 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 this volume, readers will learn that Madagascar is an island off the southeastern coast of Africa, settled 2,000 years ago by Malaysians and Indonesians, followed by coastal Africans, pirates, and ultimately, the French; the Malagasy people don't think of themselves as Africans. After independence and a brief Marxist experiment, the present government seeks to cope with many severe problems. A burgeoning population intent on survival is destroying Madagascar's unique environment with slash and burn agriculture, causing deforestation and soil erosion. This leads in turn to loss of precious flora and fauna (lemurs are especially vulnerable, as is the rare plowshare tortoise). Most Malagasy live at subsistence level in rural areas, though the capital, Antananarivo, offers a more sophisticated lifestyle with touches of French influence. Many people practice an animis religion focused on ancestors and fady (taboo), sometimes alongside Christianity. Artists create brightly colored cloth, lace, woodcarvings and pottery; music and dance are popular (some musicians have achieved success on the world music scene). Overall, the authors conclude that the government must halt deforestation, while developing mineral resources and increasing trade, tourism, and foreign aid, or soon Madagascar will be unable to support its ever-growing population. Maps, a timeline and fact pages provide helpful information.Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft