Monday, April 27, 2015

Book Review: Africa is Not a Country

Lily is using some of the level 6-8 Moving Beyond the Page curriculum this year, and there we came across the book Africa is Not a Country. I just have to take a moment to rave here. Lily is my third to be doing the whole exploring the geography of the continents and learning about different cultures thing that pretty much every curriculum includes in the early years. It is important, but I have always been kind of "meh" on most of the books we have encountered over the years. They are either not detailed enough but interesting (thinking more fiction) or very detailed but very dry reading for the early years. With that, I was very very pleasantly surprised to see this one.

The illustrations are drawn rather than photos but detailed. The front has a string of kids holding various flags of the countries within Africa. It has a map of Africa in the front with all the countries labeled, but it does break it down into more manageable pieces for the elementary imagination. Example: "If you drew a picture of Africa's landscapes on a large pie and cut it into ten equal pieces, only one pieces would contain all of its rain forests. Four pieces would represent the deserts ...." This is something a kid can understand. Following this, each 2-page spread shows a nice illustration of a family and some about that family in narrative style. The cultural information is nicely included into the text with the focus being on the children described and not the list of details, i.e., "The boys kiss their parents' hands and respond 'Yekenielai,' which means 'thank-you' in Tigrinya, a widely spoken language in Eritrea." In the sense that each page turn encompasses a different region, it reads similar to Children Just Like Me by DK Publishing. That, by the way, is our second favorite for teaching about world cultures to children.

Africa is not a country though is (obviously!) just about Africa unlike the DK book, and it is much much less dense. I think for my family the DK book is better for 3-6th grades, child the Africa Is Not a Country book is suitable for the younger set, down into pre-K. The back does contain a summary of each country with population, capital and so forth for reference, but the focus is really reading it aloud for youngers. Lily really really loved this one for learning. The prior study was Asia, and we did use Exploring Asia by Kalman, but as mentioned above it was data dense and a little dry though still good. This one on Africa though really stands out among the crowd for interest in the youngest students so I had to put that out there!

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