CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 25 . . . . March 2, 2018
This new title in the "Orca Footprints" series shines the spotlight on 'community' as a key human need. It describes groups from the smallest units to global organizations, and how common goals can be achieved by working together. Four chapters divide the book: a look at ways families and friendships function; the local neighborhood including variations in housing and reasons for different lifestyles; larger groups based on religion, race or ethnicity; international organizations that promote projects to benefit many in need. Sidebars entitled "Love This!", "Let's Work Together" and "I believe in Love" offer more specific examples to illustrate situations described in the text. Resources, an extensive Glossary (as the book contains a good deal of challenging vocabulary) and an Index complete the book.
While the series generally has a target age of 8-12, this title has a rather high reading level. The writing style is straightforward, almost didactic in places, and at times, the complexity of the ideas, statistics, descriptions of laws and concepts become somewhat cumbersome. The chart of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in the "Introduction", for example, uses terms that would be new to many young readers but which are not well-defined (self actualization, physiological needs) and which make the content less accessible and inviting for them. Lifestyle communities described are mainly those to which adults would relate (cruisers in marinas, RV full timers, retirement complexes, golf resorts, the workplace), and the examples of hobby activities that may inspire community are oriented more to adults than young people: salsa dancing, equestrian vaulting. Some photos, though, show youngsters engaged in activities like 4H, school, and shared time with seniors.
The wide ranging premise for Better Together precludes too much in depth examination, but interest is created with unusual examples to illustrate community: a prison, leper colony, a bookstore in Paris. There is considerable research, as well as detail based on the author's personal experiences, making this book a worthwhile addition to the series. A sophisticated teenage or young adult reader strongly motivated to learn about this topic might be attracted to Better Together.
Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer living in BC.