Fast trip around the world

Michael Storm

GEOGRAPHY OF THE WORLD Dorling Kindersley Pounds 25

New arrivals from the Dorling Kindersley stable are instantly recognisable, with their glittery but tasteful livery and their busy but lucid layouts and inventive graphics. This latest addition bears a strong family resemblance to the World Reference Atlas (1994), but the similarity lies in its style, not content.

The country-by-country app-roach remains, but the scale is more modest; the UK gets two pages instead of six (though the US retains its eight). The strictly alphabetical arrangement of the Reference Atlas is replaced by an interesting regional categorisation. This finds room for the Near East as well as the Middle East, and distinguishes between mainland and maritime South-East Asia. Ukraine, Moldavia and the Transcaucasian countries are firmly located in Europe, while Russia (six pages) heads the Asia section. Not all Cypriot readers will be happy to find the island embedded in the double-page spread on Turkey.

The use of the term "geography" for what is basically a descriptive reference book might be irritating to some teachers, but the text does incorporate explanation (for example, the influence of the Andes on South American climates) often enlivened by excellent diagrams.

This is emphatically not a folksy, tourist's view of our world. Concise but well-considered paragraphs deal with current conflicts and issues - Israeli-Arab tensions, the Balkan mosaic, the Rwandan genocide, and Third World debt. Since a news headline will often provide the reason for dipping into this colourful volume, the emphasis on topicality is well judged.

This enlightened selection of material must owe a good deal to the impressive panel of academic consultants that the publishers have assembled. Pedagogical expertise must have been equally accessible, for the language level is appropriate and page layouts are well geared to the 11-14 age group. A cross-referencing "find out more" panel on each country spread is particularly useful. This often reminds users of the general thematic material (such as world climates and population) at the beginning and end of the book.

There is a glossary, gazetteer (to the modest but clear maps for each country and region) and index. This is likely to become one of the most used volumes in any secondary school library, and would make a delectable gift for a juvenile armchair traveller.

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