Bird's eye view

17th July 1998 at 01:00
Mummy: Eyewitness Project Pack. Dorling Kindersley Pounds 4.99. Metropolis series: Egyptian Town By Scott Steedman. Roman Town By Hazel Mary Martell. Watts Pounds 10.99 each. The Atlas of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome By Piero Bardi. Macdonald Young Books Pounds 10.99.

CAT - Computerised Axial Tomography - is familiar to those who work down among the dead men and women of ancient Egypt. It is an X-ray process that enables mummies to be studied in great detail. This I learnt from a new Eyewitness Project pack that gives good information at a knockdown price.

Anyone undertaking an Egyptian project will find it useful, although if you are squeamish about pictures of the partly decayed long-dead, I should give it a miss. You should treat the pack as consumable, for its contents are not built to last. They cry out to be handled, sorted, cut, stuck and pored over. There are lots of bits and it may be best to put a selected few into circulation at any one time; you need to be organised to get the most from them.

If you prefer to see the ancient world through the eye of a bird rather than a CAT, then the Metropolis books from Watts might be more to your taste. These make full use of the aerial view, the key graphic idea on which the books are built. A bird's eye view of history will not disconcert pupils - most will enjoy identifying the birds that glide through the pages.

Credit is due for the consistent execution of the idea - it livens up scenes such as the Roman army camp and the theatre. Clever and elegant though the drawings are, the combination of unusual angle and cut-aways can bring complexity rather than clarity. The text is dense but uninvolving and you may find the use of the present tense confusing. "The Romans are very proud of their army." Yes, they were. The small print size may deter all but better Year 6 readers.

The Atlas is much more than - yet barely - what it claims to be. Maps can hardly be said to dominate and the large ones are heavily overprinted with information.

Each spread is focused on a theme, such as 'Greek Theatre', and liberally pasted with blocks of text that are mixed almost haphazardly with artwork and photographs. Finely illustrated and well indexed, the text is suitable for more able children.

Paul Noble is head of St Andrew's primary school, Blunsdon, Wiltshire

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