Barefoot Books’ newly released World Atlas for children, written by Nick Crane and illustrated by David Dean, is one of those books that will grow with your child over time. It is stuffed with factoids and information about our planet, with colorful illustrations that will continue to entice children to explore its pages. Did you know that dates have been around for so long that no one knows what region the palm tree is native to; or that polar bears are the largest predator on earth, weighing up to 1,499 pounds?
The Atlas aims to present a snapshot of our planet today and how people in different parts of the world interact with it. The central theme is the way we work together to protect the planet, illuminated by sections on land use and natural resources, the environment, and transport within each region, together with further information on physical features (e.g. Southeast Asia has the world’s largest archipelago), people and places (the tribal groups of Papua New Guinea speak 820 languages), and climate and weather.
Divided into many sections, the Atlas first introduces the story of our planet, followed by details on the oceans. The bulk of the book, which presents the world by region, is like exploring a large house with many nooks and crannies. Some pages fold out with extra fun facts and upon first exploration, I missed the pull-out wall map waiting patiently to be unearthed from the last page. You could return to the same page several times and continue to find something new in the map illustration, as people, animals, buildings, activities, transport and industries vie for attention against the backdrop of water and land. Secret closets are tucked into some of the pages—small flaps of “Did you know?”, hiding details about the holy city Varansi, the endangered lemur in Madagascar and the Donghai bridge wind farm in China.
As a child, and this is now a full disclosure on the sort of child I was, I will admit that one of my favorite books was a dictionary. Granted, it was a children’s dictionary but I loved it because of the pictures. The balance of the words on the page and pictures was calibrated just right—the book felt older, more mature than a simple picture book, because it had a lot of text, but the pictures are what kept me interested. At the end of the day, it was just a dictionary, so there had to be something more to it than just definitions. I remember sitting on my lavender rug and first tracing the pictures, then trying to draw them freehand, while reading the words next to them. I know there were other books I loved, but the children’s dictionary was one I kept coming back to. I see this Atlas in a similar way (although I promise it’s much more interesting than a dictionary): part reference guide, part educational, part fanciful (in that it will keep children’s imaginations active), full adventure. Now I’m going back to sipping on ginger tea and reading the Atlas, even though my kids are already asleep.
Disclosure: We were not compensated for writing this review but received a free copy of the book. The decision to write the review was ours entirely.