Big City Atlas by Maggie Li is a beautiful book that wears its learning lightly, this atlas shows twenty-eight different cities and captures the distinctive heart of each one.
Each city receives a double-page spread, and the consistent layout will encourage young readers to find information confidently. An endearing penguin introduces each new place with that country’s greeting. He shows the country, currency, language and population and offers a brief glimpse of the city’s unique appeal. Each spread also has a clear map of the city’s geography overlaid with a feast of facts and illustrations. The atlas strikes a superb balance; it mixes history and contemporary geography and it also incorporates both mainstream essentials and delightful trivia. Everyone who reads this will learn something, even if it is the shoe size of the Statue of Liberty! The atlas covers six continents, showing the rich diversity of the world, and its dazzling variety of culture and architecture.
Big City Atlas is an attractive book that children will pick up unprompted. They will enjoy hunting for the penguin, sometimes easily spotted, sometimes so well-disguised it will reward the careful re-reader! The statistics will appeal to some, others will pore over the witty illustrations or absorb a plethora of facts and trivia. It could be used in class to explore a single city at a time or to supplement another title such as One World, Many Colours; equally, it could be enjoyed at home and from cover to cover.
Younger children will benefit from an adult to help them link text and illustrations or to distinguish between historical information and contemporary reality. But in a world where it is currently harder to travel (this is a lockdown review), a book like this that inspires armchair exploration and opens children’s eyes to the beauty of the world is a life-enhancing thing.
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