On a grander scale

25th December 1998 at 00:00
ULTIMATE PANORAMIC ATLAS. Dorling Kindersley Pounds 12.99. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC WORLD ATLAS FOR YOUNG EXPLORERS. National Geographic Society Pounds 16. 99.

Karl Donert suggests some geographical treats for the New Year Can you think of a better New Year treat than spending time looking at a beautiful atlas? The DK Ultimate Panoramic Atlas, with its set of exceptional visual resources showing spectacular views of the world, could fit the bill. Its computer-generated maps have been produced using techniques commonly associated with satellite remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

A three-dimensional model, called a Digital Terrain Model (DTM), is created from a database of relief measurements. This information is then manipulated and coloured to exaggerate the relief and the perspective to produce the most interesting effects. As a result, the Ultimate Panoramic Atlas provides fascinating views of the world at continental and regional scales, with the main images folding out to produce breathtaking panoramic views. There are also sections with "incredible facts", some small thematic maps, annotated diagrams and small photographs. This is an extremely attractive resource that is ideal for children and adults.

The National Geographic World Atlas for Young Explorers is a more traditional publication targeted at eight to 12-year-olds. However, the level of language and the amount of detail make it better suited to older children. It is clearly structured with a world section, followed by chapters devoted to each continent. These start with an oblique image from space, followed by a double page of beautiful photographs and summarising text; and finally a number of physical and political maps. The satellite images are exceptional, but the maps are unlike those normally found in school atlases - they look similar to those published in the National Geographic, but with reduced place detail. They have a useful alpha-numeric grid, but the absence of a colour-coded key to the heights on the physical maps is disappointing.

The National Geographic World Atlas for Young Explorers provides up-to-date and information - it even includes a map of El Ni$o and a graph showing Internet use. Detailed sections explain types of map, map scales and map reading, and thematic sections deal with the world from physical, climatic, environmental, political, demographic and transportation viewpoints. This is a standard atlas with attractive photographs which is likely to be a useful coffee-table reference book.

Karl Donert Karl Donert is senior lecturer in geography and environmental studies and international co-ordinator at Liverpool Hope University College

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