Big City Atlas

Authored by Maggie Li
Illustrated by Maggie Li
Published by Pavilion

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This non-fiction picture book is exactly what the title tells us: it takes you to big cities around the world, with each double spread devoted to one city. There are 28 cities and each one is full of information and facts about each city. The cities included are San Francisco, Mexico City, Chicago, Toronto, New York, Washington DC, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Dublin, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Rome, Madrid, Cairo, Istanbul, Cape Town, Dubai, Mumbai, Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney and Auckland.

I am a huge fan of map books and confess to owning many children’s map picture books. They are a great way to introduce maps and atlases to children and harness their natural curiosity about the world, and they are, more often than not, offering a wonderful visual appeal to invite you in to explore different countries and places.

What makes this one different from others is that we are taken on a world city tour by a globetrotting penguin as our guide. At each city penguin introduces the city with ‘Hello’ in the native language of that country, with some engaging facts about the city, the country the city is in, the language spoken, the currency and the population size of the city. Other features that make this map book stand out are more interactive features such as the ‘find it’, which crops up on some of the city spreads. For example, in Chicago, it asks you to look carefully to find some amazing modern art sculptures that are dotted around the city. Also, at the end of the book there are three pages of quizzes to test your knowledge.

The contents page is a good classic feature of a map picture book: a visual one of the world showing what page each city can be located on. This can be a book just to dip into as well as reading from start to finish. A great follow-up activity to reading it would be to identify other cities in the world that are not included and produce your own similar double-page spread.

Each double spread gives enough information to give a good flavour of each city, including facts about buildings, food, art, sport, famous people, landmarks, festivals, traditions and history. In addition, there are also some images without information and just labelled, so it gives you the opportunity to research and find out more. The book is aimed at 7-11 readers so it may be a bit misleading seeing the penguin and possibly thinking this is a map book is aimed at a younger age group. For the younger 7-11 readers. there is an opportunity on each double spread to spot the penguin engaging in an activity specific to the city.

I found this a fascinating map book, finding out facts about cities I know little about. Maggie Li has written it with just the right amount of information on each page, with a good balance between facts old, new and fun, drawing your eye in one every page with her bright illustrations.