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. Volume VIII Number 14 . . . . March 15, 2002
Ferdinand Porsche (1875-1952) was a well-respected car designer. He wanted to create a small car that most people would be able to afford so that they could drive on the new Autobahn. During the 1930s, he designed a rounded car that reminded people of an insect. It was called the Beetle. A company called Volkswagen, which means "people's car," was formed to produce the Beetle.
Written in mini-series format, each set of books celebrates the beauty of the featured country and the diversity of its people. Averaging 11 chapters, each of the titles includes a table of contents, a glossary and an index. Vibrant, full-colour photographs, diagrams and maps, all suitably labelled, enhance the text. In fact, in many cases, the photographs could stand on their own. The titles on Italy are so packed with photos that even the end papers and inside covers have them. Written in fairly simple language, the text is fluent and interesting. All of the series books have the same format, in layout, text font and style. Though there are some differences in the topics covered, due to the unique features, problems or contributions of the various countries, generally, the range of topics is similar. A particular strength of the series is that it portrays each country in an honest and realistic manner, flaws and all. One example is the section on Adolf Hitler and the Second World War in the Germany series.
Books on the land contain information on the physical features, climate, people, major cities, flora and fauna, natural resources, industry and transportation of each country. Major cities are also highlighted. In the titles on people, the focus is on a variety of lifestyles of the nation's inhab itants, their religion, daily life, food, schools, clothing, sports and pastimes. These volumes portray the featured countries as lands of many contrasts: rich versus poor, city life versus country life, and modern versus ancient traditions. Germany's volume takes a look at the problems caused by wars and the division of the country from 1945-1989. These topics are explained in an age-appropriate manner.
The culture books begin with a history of the country and often include a section on famous people from ancient times to the present. Information on major religions and their holidays, traditions and celebrations serves to give readers a better understanding of the diverse cultures around the world. Equal billing is given to all of the country's people and religions. Art, music, theatre, dance, architecture and language are highlighted as well as the contributions that the people have made to global society. Both the Italians and the Germans, for example, are well-known for their contributions to automobile design while one of the things that the Italians are famous for is their fashion houses. What is most memorable about the volume on Italy is the richness of the country's culture, especially the outstanding art and architecture produced for centuries.
Kalman has successfully captured the flavour of each of the countries highlighted. An excellent series, designed to foster an understanding and appreciation of world communities. Its format will be useful to students searching for specific information. .
Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian at Bird's Hill School in East St. Paul, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.