Spotlight on royal heritage

SCOTTISH KINGS AND QUEENS By Elizabeth Douglas, illustrator Adrienne Salgado SCOTTISH LANDSCAPES By Alan and Moira McKirdy, illustrator Craig Ellery Scottie Books Pounds 4.50 each. Stationery Office for the National Museum of Scotland

These two books are the latest in the Scotties series aimed at young readers, and are full of interesting facts, activities and suggestions for places to visit.

Scottish Kings and Queens traces the monarchs as far back as the 9th century and proceeds to give a potted history of them up to the Union of the Crowns in 1603. The last few pages then lose focus, leaving the reader feeling they are merely fillers.

Scottish Landscapes describes the diversity of contrasting landscapes. It explains how mountains, farmlands, moorlands, bogs and marshes were formed and how they shape our country today. It diverges, however, and frequently contains a conglomerate of loosely related facts, making the page spreads unnecessarily over-busy.

In both books the print is very small and condensed, and language structures are complex and full of unwieldy sentences. This together with an over-indulgence in detail, would make it very difficult for even the most fluent of upper primary school readers to digest or differentiate between relevant and irrelevant facts.

The artwork, though in full colour and - for some - gently appealing, lacks impact and is reminiscent of textbooks of a bygone age.

For today's discerning children, used to high-quality reproductions, the presentation is unlikely to engage even upper primary readers in more than a cursory glance, which is a pity, because there is no doubt that both books contain a wealth of information.

Pat Mackenzie is a lecuturer in educational studies at Moray House Institute, Edinburgh

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