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August 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more Children's Atlas Roundup
Each spring, the Reference Books Bulletin section of Booklist provides updated information on current children’s atlases. The following sources are recommended for school libraries based on quality, cost, and availability.
Children’s Atlas of the World. By Malcolm Porter. 2005. 96p. Gareth Stevens, $38 (9780836849899).
Gr. 3–6. An early atlas that provides basic data and easy-to-read maps. A section with information on the “Planet Earth” and “Measuring Earth” is followed by two world maps, one physical and one political. Other maps are arranged by continent, with a variety of maps covering main political and physical features and, in most cases, regions (“Spain and Portugal,” “Southern Africa.”). U.S. maps show the country as a whole, and four regions. Facts boxes contain information about individual countries (or, for the U.S., states) and depictions of flags.
Facts On File Children’s Atlas. 2006. 96p. Facts On File, $18.95 (9780816067114).
Gr. 4–6. The 13-page opening section includes some thematic maps and an explanation of elevation and scale. Sections on the continents begin with physical and political maps of the areas covered along with fact files (smallest country, largest lake, etc.). Each of the 37 regional or country maps shows major cities as well as any city that is referred to in the text. Every map has insets that contain a locator map, the height of the landmass, and a scale legend. Additional material includes pictures of postage stamps and flags and sidebars highlighting aspects of history or culture. All maps appear on one page of a double-page spread so there is no gutter loss, although some of the maps are quite small. Besides elevation, water features are the only physical features shown. The 4 U.S. maps include Alaska, eastern U.S., western U.S., and a simple U.S. map showing state capitals. Unlike most of the other atlases discussed here, the index does not indicate the country in which indexed places are located.
Gareth Stevens Atlas of the World. 2004. 200p. Gareth Stevens, $42 (9780836840919).
Gr. 4–8. Mapquest provided the nearly 200 maps found in this atlas. Eight pages of introductory material, called “Portrait of the World in the 21st Century,” contain mostly statistical information and are followed by a world map. Coverage of each continent begins with a continental map and maps showing GNP, vegetation, and population. There are also lists of major cities with population figures, and graphs showing climate and population figures. More than in any of the other atlases, the focus is on maps for individual countries and, for Canada and the U.S., individual provinces and states. Countries may be grouped on a two-page spread, but each country has its own map with its own index as well as a fact box showing the flag and listing the capital, language, and monetary unit. Maps indicate main divisions and cities and towns along with four water features. The U.S. is covered in a special, separately indexed section. Here, political and physical maps are followed by state maps, which are much more detailed than the maps for the rest of the world. Canadian province maps are also more detailed. The strengths of this atlas are its individual country maps and its treatment of the states. Of all the atlases in the group, this one most resembles an atlas for adults; younger children may find it heavy going.
Illustrated Atlas. 2004. 288p. World Book, $39.50 (9780716640431).
Gr. 2–8. This atlas has 100 maps along with plenty of photographs and color illustrations. Everything about it is geared toward younger children. The 35 pages of introductory material introduce basic concepts, and maps are the least detailed of any of the atlases in the group, with no grids or scales. Countries and capitals are the only features on the political maps. Each section deals with a region (western Europe) or a country (Japan) and begins with two pages of introduction that includes a locater map. This is followed by a simple political map for the region or country along with a fact box and pictures of the flag or flags. Following this is a succession of two-page spreads on plants and animals, people, and more; some of these spreads include uncluttered thematic maps. There are no maps dealing specifically with the U.S; instead, it is treated as part of North America. This volume looks as much like a picture book as it does like an atlas, making it best suited for the younger range of its audience.
The Kingfisher Children’s Atlas. 2004. 80p. Kingfisher, $14.95 (9780753457740).
Gr. 3–5. This atlas is designed for a younger audience than The Kingfisher Student Atlas. An introductory section on using maps is followed by maps arranged by continent. Like several other atlases for the age group, this one has simplified maps that are dotted with picture symbols, some representing industry but most depicting animals. Maps for each country or group of countries are accompanied by fact boxes listing largest cities, longest rivers, etc.
The Kingfisher First Picture Atlas. 2005. 48p. Kingfisher, $10.95 (9780753458488).
Gr. K–3. A colorful starter atlas offering a selection of large, simple national and regional maps. Major physical features and political divisions are shown, and picture symbols indicate animals, industries, and landmarks. Children are also introduced to some important map concepts, such as grids and scales. There is one map for the U.S. (Alaska is shown with Canada). A cartoon penguin serves as the child’s guide through the atlas and appears on the story boxes, which contain interesting facts and accompany each map. The atlas comes with a poster displaying a map of North America and state and provincial flags.
The Kingfisher Student Atlas. 2003. 128p. Kingfisher, $24.95 (9780753455890).
Gr. 4–6. A 10-page introductory section is followed by physical and political world maps and maps of the poles. Except for a map legend, there is no explanation of atlas conventions or how to read maps. The atlas has maps for 41 regions or countries and four oceans. Regional and country maps have quite a bit of detail—major cities and towns and 12 physical features—but are nevertheless easy to read and do not bleed into the gutter even when they are spread across more than one page. Each map is accompanied by a few paragraphs of text, country flags, and a useful elevation (called “Land Height”) legend. The U.S. section has four maps. Although this atlas does not have as many supplemental facts or graphics as some of the other atlases do, its clear maps are a plus. The foldout map of North America and the CD-ROM that come with the volume are better suited to home use.
National Geographic Student Atlas of the World. Rev. ed. 2009. 144p. National Geographic, $19.95 (9781426304453).
Gr. 6–9. The goal of this colorful atlas is to help students “better understand basic geographic concepts and compare and contrast information critical to making global connections.” National Geographic atlases are known for their excellent introductory material, and this one is no exception. In fact, more than 50 pages of introductory material precede the maps. These pages cover an array of topics organized under “Physical Systems” and “Human Systems” and expose students to a variety of thematic, political, and physical maps. By comparison, the map section of the atlas seems a bit skimpy. Arrangement is by continent, and information is presented in fairly broad strokes. If the goal is simply to find a location, this atlas is not the first place a student should look. Because its emphasis is thematic, it doesn’t take the place of a more generally useful tool, such as The Kingfisher Student Atlas. However, it provides a good introduction to different mapping concepts.
National Geographic United States Atlas for Young Explorers. 3d ed. 2008. 176p. National Geographic, $24.95 (9781426302558).
Gr. 3–7. Like its sister atlas, National Geographic World Atlas for Young Explorers, this atlas for ages 8 through 12 features strong introductory material, including a transportation map and a special city map for Washington, D.C. Large, easy-to-read state maps are organized by region and complemented by fact boxes. Small icons are used to indicate industries, crops, and other aspects of the economy. For each region, there is a physical map and a two-page spread of color photos.
National Geographic World Atlas for Young Explorers. 3d ed. 2007. 192p. National Geographic, $24.95 (9781426300882).
Gr. 3–7. Introductory material is one of the strong points in this atlas. Twenty-five thematic maps show climate, vegetation, population density, endangered species, world economies, and more. There is also a good explanation of the types of maps and how to read a map. The section for each continent starts with a physical and a political map; sandwiched between are four pages of color photos. Regions or countries are divided into 32 separate maps that show 20 political and physical features, plus icons for crops, industries, and other aspects of the economy. Maps are generally large and very easy to read, although in some cases—western Europe, for example—countries are crowded onto a single map, and some information is lost in the gutter. Each map is accompanied by flags and facts about each country’s area, population, capital, and chief language. The U.S. maps come with similar information for the states.
The Reader’s Digest Children’s Atlas of the World. 3d ed. 2003. 128p. Reader’s Digest, $24.99 (9780794402075).
Gr. 4–8. Maps are preceded by 20 pages of introductory material. Sections on continents are introduced by political and physical maps and also by “records” (world’s largest gorge, continent’s highest mountain). This atlas divides the world into 30 countries and regions, with just two maps apiece for Africa and South America. There are 8 pages of U.S. maps. Accompanying the maps are lists of country populations and capitals, “amazing facts,” and hands-on projects (“Make a Mexican Piñata”). Maps are large and quite dense. Longitude and latitude are not indicated, and fewer political and geographic features are shown than in some of the other atlases. Instead, there is heavy reliance on picture symbols for wildlife, industries, and so on, that sometimes overwhelms boundaries and names of cities and towns. A “World Fact File,” which includes pronunciations for country names, follows the maps. This is a good choice for younger children, with lots of kid-friendly features not found in other atlases.
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