How to shrink a head

5th December 2003 at 00:00

Explorers wanted! In the jungle By Simon Chapman Egmont Books pound;4.99

Intrepid Explorers By Anita Ganeri Scholastic pound;7.99

If you've ever fancied being an explorer but don't want all the pain and discomfort involved, then Explorers wanted! In the jungle will suit you admirably. As the introduction declares: "This book gives you the low down on life in the Amazon rainforest and essential tips for your expedition, like how to get there, what to take and what to expect. There are also some pretty scary true-life stories of people who have tried to explore it before."

The text is lively and engaging. There are plenty of activities and surveys to complete. You get to select your own equipment, work out what to do when you get lost, hunt for food and shoot rapids. There are information pages on topics as varied as the "rubber boom", "ants" and "how to shrink a human head". The approach may not always be politically correct, but junior school children could learn an awful lot about the rainforest from this engaging book. Although cheaply produced, the text and illustrations paint a vivid picture of the jungle and its dangers. We need more books like this which bring geography to life and make it fun.

Intrepid Explorers is the 10th title in Anita Ganeri's Horrible Geography series. It contains an impressive array of information about explorers from ancient times to the present. Inevitably the focus is on European travellers but we also find out about adventurers from other parts of the world such as the Moroccan, Ibn Battutah and the 7th-century Chinese scholar, Hsuan Tsang.

A number of women explorers are included. For example, there is an entry on Henriette Dangeville, the first woman to climb Mount Blanc. This is followed by accounts of three other intrepid women explorers from the same period.

This book is recognisably a Scholastic publication. The jokey humour, the panels of "earth shattering" facts, the sketches and maps are a familiar cocktail. At times the superlatives seem rather tired and tend to overload the text. There is also a surfeit of alliteration. One section has entries on "Confused Colombus", "Magnificent Magellan" and "Courageous Cook".

Elsewhere we learn about "Meandering Monks" and "Suffering Sailors".

Despite this, the text has a good pace and is interesting. This is a book that will appeal to individual children and deserves a place in the school library. In its own way it should help (as the blurb on the back cover declares) to "wave goodbye to boring geography".

Stephen Scoffham is principal lecturer in the faculty of education at Canterbury Christ Church University College

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