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Kids Can Explore the World With Four Great New Books

Share For National Geography Awareness Week, Education World has found four great new books for elementary school children. Two atlases from National Geographic Society target different age and skill levels. A picture book makes mapmaking easy and relevant for kids. A pop-up book provides hands-on entertainment while introducing the basics about the world in which we live.

In the last decade, the world has changed dramatically. Many countries no longer have the same borders, governments, or even names they had ten years ago. In the United States, new immigrants continue to add to the diversity of ethnicities, languages, and cultures in our society. More than ever, a solid grounding in geography is helpful in understanding the complex relationships between different groups of people and between people and Earth.


Book Cover Image If you could choose only one geography book for elementary school children, then the Beginner's World Atlas (National Geographic Society) is the one! The handiwork of an expert staff, this atlas contains a wealth of facts about the world, full-color photographs, and clear, easy-to-read maps that introduce the study of our planet.

The first chapter, called "Understanding Your World," begins with an explanation of maps: how they provide a bird's-eye view of the physical Earth, how they differ from globes, and more. It also covers such topics as directions, scale, the physical world, and the political world. Subsequent chapters concentrate on one of the seven continents and are further divided into sections on the land, covering land regions, water, climate, plants, and animals, and the people, including brief descriptions of countries, cities, ethnic backgrounds, languages, and major products.

This atlas offers both political and physical maps so young readers can begin to form an understanding of the different ways to view the world. The maps are colorful, large, and clearly labeled. Beautiful full-color photographs vividly illustrate the variety of people, landscapes, and animals throughout our world. The text is simple and direct, full of fun and interesting facts.

A section called "World at a Glance" sums up some of the basic facts presented in the earlier chapters. Other supplemental material includes a glossary, a pronunciation guide, and an index. For a basic introduction to the study of geography, there are few books as well written or as visually appealing as Beginner's World Atlas.


Book Cover Image For an even easier first atlas-- one to read aloud to non-readers-- take a look at Our World. This atlas was created specifically for children aged three through six.

The atlas introduces the idea of the globe by drawing a comparison with Earth as seen by astronauts in space. The concept of a map-- as a flattened drawing of Earth-- is then introduced, followed by different features of Earth, such as bodies of water, deserts, and mountains. Sections on the different continents are also included.

Maps and other artwork are prominent in this book, with the text reduced to brief paragraphs and captions. The maps are simpler than in the previously mentioned National Geographic atlas.


Book Cover Image The Amazing Pop-Up Geography Book (Dutton Children's Books), written by Kate Petty and illustrated by Jennie Maizels, should intrigue even the most uninterested student. Opening the brightly colored pages reveals lift-the-flap continents, pop-up mountains, accordion-pleated flags, and much more. Each page includes several hands-on features, from paper boats to slide along the world's longest rivers to a tab that can be pulled to re-create an earthquake. There is even a removable globe tucked inside a pocket in the front that expands into a three-dimensional shape.

Along with the fun, there is a great deal of information presented in a logical sequence. The book has eight categories:

  • Our Place in Space
  • Sunshine
  • Continents and Oceans
  • Rivers and Mountains
  • Countries
  • Disaster!
  • Journey Time
  • Who Lives Here?

Each topic comprises only one or two pages but contains much useful information. On the page "Continents and Oceans," for example, a map displays all seven continents, each one with a flap to lift. Lift the flap for a greeting from an animal that lives on that continent and one or two facts. A character named Otis Ocean informs the reader that there are four oceans to remember. Other colorful characters appear throughout the book, sporting such names as Rita River, Disastrous Dan, and Sonny Sun.

The Amazing Pop-up Geography Book is one of a series of unique books by author Kate Petty and illustrator Jennie Maizels. Previous titles include The Amazing Pop-Up Multiplication Book, The Amazing Pop-Up Grammar Book, and The Amazing Pop-Up Music Book.

For children who may prefer an interactive approach to learning about geography, The Amazing Pop-up Geography Book is highly recommended.


Book Cover Image For homework, Lisa has to make a map. Her teacher has explained that a map is like a picture taken from above the land. He has explained about map keys, symbols, scale, labeling, and so forth. So Lisa decides to map her bedroom with the help of her roommate, her dog, Penny. That's when Lisa decides to map the rest of Penny's world.

In Mapping Penny's World (Henry Holt and Company, LLC), writer and illustrator Loreen Leedy breaks mapmaking into easy-to-accomplish components, doable for even young children. Armed with only a pencil, paper, compass, and ruler, Lisa creates a map of her room. She follows it with maps of her property, showing Penny's favorite places to hide her treasures, and a map showing directions to their house, from the home of one of Penny's canine companions. Lisa-- and the reader-- learn about the different ways to use maps as well as how to create them.

While simplifying the process of mapmaking so that it is not intimidating for young children, Leedy is careful to include explanations of key elements of maps and tools to make them. Her simple, direct, digital artwork clearly illustrates each finished product.

Leedy has written and illustrated many children's books. Her books, including an earlier Lisa and Penny story called Measuring Penny, excel at making math and social science concepts concrete, interesting, and accessible to children. She speaks at conferences and in schools throughout the United States. To find our more about Leedy, check out her Web site at Welcome to Loreen Leedy's Web site!

The books highlighted this week are available in most bookstores. If you are unable to locate the book, ask your bookseller to order it for you or contact the publisher directly:

  • Beginner's World Atlas and Our World are published by National Geographic Society, 1145 17th Street N.W., Washington, D.C., 20036-4688.
  • The Amazing Pop Up Geography Book, written by Kate Petty and illustrated by Jennie Maizels, is published by Dutton Children's Books, a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657.
  • Mapping Penny's World, written and illustrated by Loreen Leedy, is published by Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 115 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
  • Lauren P. Gattilia
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2000 Education World

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