These books, from a new ‘Exploring History’ series, chart the history of a variety of countries and continents before and after the arrival of Europeans. Each book is written by an author associated with the country in question and this has broadened the viewpoint presented in each.
In India, the author appeals directly to the younger reader by using a syntax closer to speech than that of the information book by asking, ‘What comes to mind when you think of India? The beautiful Taj Mahal?’ This approach draws the reader to the text. Along with other books in the series, India , gives mainly a historical view, yet there are also interesting modern-day maps and photographs which describe the physical and social geography of various regions. The reader learns about discoveries made in Indian astronomy and also about invaders and rulers of India in the past. Particular attention is paid in all the texts to supporting information with varieties of visual evidence such as examples of artefacts, cave paintings and inscriptions.
In Africa young readers are introduced to less wellknown empires such as the Asante Empire as well as interesting information on Arab travellers and explorers. Reasons for European exploration and later conquest of the continent are examined. China describes the many ages and rulers of China and outlines inventions of the ancient Chinese, such as gunpowder, paper, printing and porcelain.
Books in this series are well designed and the common format of the texts will assist children to move easily from one book to another. Particularly helpful are the opening chapters which explain how each book is arranged. Written information in each chapter is set out under headings and short paragraphs while colour panels indicate specific pieces of historical information. The inclusion of a contents page with headings and subheadings along with a glossary and index provide young readers with a framework to access information. However, the text of each index is a little cramped. While the glossaries are useful in explaining specific words encountered in the texts, reference in some texts to concepts such as ‘political expansion’ will still pose a challenge to younger readers. In the main the texts succeed in overcoming such difficulties by communicating the central ideas through use of quality visual information which helps to extend the words and communicate information more readily to the younger reader.
Use of these books would enable children to develop a greater understanding of the history of non-European societies. They would widen children’s historical and geographical awareness and would be a valuable resource to support the curriculum in these areas. Other books in the series are: Japan, Australia, Polar Regions, Latin America and North America . Age 10+