From School Library Journal
Gr 5-9--Neither of these titles effectively meets the challenge of helping youngsters understand the peoples of these countries or the reasons for the political problems the nations face. The series' formulaic organization with many brief, frequently unconnected sections mitigates against adequate development of key concepts. For instance, the basic Somali social system of clans and lineages is barely referred to in the early chapters on history and government; when it is finally discussed halfway through the book, the author devotes fewer words to it than to food. "Clan," "lineage," and "clan-family" are nowhere defined. In both books, the stereotyping term "tribe" is carelessly used. In Somalia, it is sometimes used interchangeably with "clan." In Sudan, Levy meaninglessly speaks of "tribes and their cattle," "tribespeople," and "tribal medicine" when referring to the people of the South. Pressing the racial/cultural confusion that characterizes the book, the author says, "As one travels farther south...the indigenous population is black African rather than Arab." The people in the North also are African, and as the colorful illustrations testify, essentially all of them would be perceived as black almost anywhere. Again, a fundamental concept--what it means to be "Arab" in Sudan--is not accurately explained early in the book so that it can be developed through the chapters on history and government. Both books belabor memorizable details while missing or distorting central dynamics. Though less up-to-date, Sudan in Pictures (Lerner, 1990) and Deardre Godbeer's Somalia (Chelsea, 1988) are better choices.
Loretta Kreider Andrews, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, MD
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