Aclear writing style and attractive design make this new series for middle and higher achieving key stage 3 pupils immediately accessible. It uses an area-based framework with lively activities and questions that will challenge the brightest of pupils. A strong and thorough opening section on map skills accounts for one-fifth of the text.
Returning to a concentric area frame for the series is probably a shrewd move, as most pupils are more comfortable identifying their geographic studies by place than by theme, despite the past few years' plethora of systematically-based titles and courses.
But of necessity, it is only a halfway house. Topics remain systematic in organisation (reflecting the influence of national curriculum orders) and, although it features several good case-studies, large parts of the UK are unrepresented.
The book claims to go beyond national curriculum requirements, but it omits the key theme of transport and communications; it identifies the constituent parts of the UK but gives them no personality.
This serves to highlight the (accidental?) apparent downgrading of the need to know the geography of the British Isles through curriculum events of recent years. Paradoxically, it occurs as the national curriculum restores "place" as one of the three key elements of the subject and as universities reaffirm the value of area-based study.
If giving teenagers a general knowledge of the geography of their own land is deemed important, the proposed major revision of the national curriculum in 2005 might do well to rehabilitate coverage of the UK within a recast place-oriented framework.
Rex Walford teaches geography in the School of Education at Cambridge UniversityBooks 2 and 3 in the Geography 21 series, on Europe and the world, will be published next year