50 Maps of the World is a colorful introduction to geography, but it is not an atlas.

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50 Maps of the World by Ben Handicott, Kalya Ryan, and Sol Linero* is for kids of a wide range of ages. It is a large format–ecause it is an atlas–100+ page volume done in a modern colorful style but using traditional atlas layout. A term like “Map Key” is replaced with “Contents” inside the front cover, which has a map of the world with page nuber references. The labeling in the “contents” give you a link to the countries covered in the book’s pages, which is a sampling of the world, not complete. That is why it is called “50 maps of the world” — there are just under 50 countries covered.

None of the maps are actual maps. They are outlines, often covered or obscured by parts of the layout of the book. Across the “map,” or in nearby sections with pointers to the “maps” are interesting localities or other item. To the extent that the layouts are map like, they are not accurate. For example, the “Cradle of Humankind” in South Africa is indicated to be in Johannesburg, but it is nearer to Krugersdorp, the Cederberg looks like it is on the coast, and The Big Hole is far too east of where it really it. Best to not think of the maps as maps, but rather, as map-esque layouts related to an exemplar country. This does produce a bit of quasi-colonialism. For example, using South Africa once again as an exemplar, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is in South Africa in this book, but the bulk of it is actually in Botswana, but since Botswana isn’t one of the included country, it lost its pare of the international (“transfrontier”) park. And, in the “Moments to Remember” section, for the same country, South African history appears to start with the later stages of the Bantu Migration (it really started hundreds of thousands of years earlier) and the next thing that happens it the arrival of Europeans. Lake Kivu is indicated to be in Rwanda, and it kinda is, but it is mainly in Congo. And so on.

Part of the page on “France”:

I’m making this sound pretty bad so far, but it is actually a fun and colorful book. But the reading level extends into the area where kids are old enough to be misled in a way that may cause confusion or inaccuracies if the book is used as a reference source. It is a way for younger kids with a somewhat higher reading level to find an entree into geography. So, I don’t hate it, but I don’t fully recommend it either.

Somewhere along the way, someone noticed that this atlas-like book is not an atlas, I’m guessing, because the publishers added a note to the beginning. “The maps in this book have been designed to tell a story, and show the natural curve of the Earth. They are not drawn to scale, nor do they reflect the longitudinal and latitudinal lines of each country. Please consult an atlas after using this book to plan your journey around the world”

There is an index.

This work may be an example of designers using our modern cultural fetish of the narrative structure to take over an important part of reality.

Meanwhile, since we are speaking of maps:

Have you read the breakthrough novel of the year? When you are done with that, try:

In Search of Sungudogo by Greg Laden, now in Kindle or Paperback
*Please note:
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