28th January 2000 at 00:00
ATLAS IN THE ROUND. By Keith Lye and Alastair Campbell. Orion Children's Books pound;9.99.

Much thought has been invested in the planning of this atlas. As with several primary atlases, it starts by discussing the insoluble problem of transferring the surface of a sphere on to flat paper.

Unusually, and very effectively, it then abjures the "flat map": all its 27 maps are presented as spheres, viewed from a variety of angles. It thus forms an ideal link between the child's early awareness of the earth as a sphere, and more sophisticated atlases.

An atention-securing sequence drains the water from the globe ("a ball of rock") then puts it back ("a ball of water"), with a striking Pacific-centred view.

This spherical approach makes the next maps - on earth structure, continental drift - unusually intelligible. A lucid, non-jokey and unpatronising prose style is complemented by clear graphics and attractive page layouts. The atlas doesn't offer a UK focus, or a course in map-reading, but as an introduction to world atlases, for seven to nine-year-olds and useable beyond, it's excellent value.

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