GREAT RIVERS OF THE WORLD SERIES. Michael Pollard. The Amazon. The Ganges. The Mississippi. The Nile. The Rhine. The Yangtze. Evans. pound;10.99 each.
These excellent new books with rivers as their starting point have every chanceof success. Just as rivers cross the boundaries and link peoples, so the study ofthem provides genuine cross-curricular opportunities.
A journey down the course of any of these great rivers means a look at the history of exploration, trading patterns, power generation, agriculture, climate, religion . . . the list is long.
Although dealing with great physical wonders, the books tend to keep people as the focus. The Yangtze, for example, begins with a simple explanation of fold mountains but quickly takes the reader on to social divisions in China, the nomadic Kazaks, the survival of Buddhism, city dwelling, tourism - and that is only the first few pages.
To make good books about rivers may not be that hard, but to make them memorable takes something extra. This series seems to possess that extra something. Perhaps it is the blend of information, or perhaps the small extras that make them so readable. In particular, each book takes time to retell legends (some more based on fact than others). The Maharajah's urns and the story of Asoha, both from The Ganges, and the killer mice on the Rhine are especially good examples. The spread devoted to the first Americans in The Mississippi is also excellent.
Naturally there is overlap - the rivers all share similar physical characteristics - but there is such a wealth of difference that it is well worth purchasing the set of six (there is another title on great rivers in Britain).
In each book there is a full text, supplemented by excellent photographs, helpful captions, diagrams, fact boxes and maps. There is also a glossary and index in each.
Readable, interesting, relevant, topical... couldn't do better.