This first atlas for ages 5-8 introduces young children to what maps are, how they are used, and what information they provide. Large, uncluttered physical and political maps of the world, of each of the seven continents, and of the United States and Canada are used to explain the difference between the two types of maps. Free of all the details of the maps in an "adult" atlas, those presented here provide quick reference to the topography of the continents and the location of countries and capitals. Accompanying each physical map of a continent are two- to three-sentence illustrated descriptions of the land, water, climate, plants, and animals of that continent. Each political map has similar paragraphs describing the countries, cities, people, languages, and products of the continent.
The concepts of direction and location are explained early in the book, before the maps are shown. But although the equator appears on the maps, unfortunately, it is never explained. Latitude and longitude, which could have been introduced as an address system similar to streets and avenues to help find a place, are neither shown on the maps nor described in the text. A book must grow with the child. Even if a five-year-old doesn't understand a coordinate system, an eight-year-old will certainly need to learn it.
The illustrations frequently show smiling children in attractive local costumes, representing the culture and products of their countries. Fortunately, the tendency to emphasize the exotic over the customary here is lessened by clearly labeling the costumes as being worn for festive or other special occasions. However, to avoid cultural or ethnic stereotyping, the book should have used moreillustrations of children doing a variety of things. An illustration of Saudi Arabian children racing camels, for instance, could be replaced by one showing them studying mathematics in school. And an illustration of a smiling peasant boy in rags sitting on a pile of recently harvested bananas could have been used to make a comment about child labor.
In spite of these shortcomings, a young child reading or browsing this colorful, attractively illustrated atlas will learn a lot about the world and will be stimulated to seek further knowledge. A short glossary, an index, and a section titled "World at a Glance" are included. Recommended, Grades PreK-Grade 2. REVIEWER: Dr. William H. Glenn