From School Library Journal
Gr 5-8--Profuse, colorful photographs characterize this series. Unfortunately, the authors communicate a limited, superficial understanding of these countries. There are minor factual errors and some use of outdated race/language terms. More importantly, factors that have profoundly influenced the present are not explained. The Berbers--the original inhabitants and majority population through most of Tunisia's history--are not even mentioned until the Muslim conquest, and their centuries of gold/salt trade across the desert are not discussed. Brown does not explain that in Islamic belief, government and courts are supposed to rule according to religious teachings in order to create a society of order, compassion, and social justice. How, then, are readers to understand the passion of "Islamic fundamentalists" against governments that deny this duty. Zambia overrepresents exotic ceremonies. Information on possibly biased sources of historical images is missing from the otherwise useful captions. Brief, formulaic chapters, including engaging ones on food, make certain comparisons of different countries easy. The sequencing and rigid separation of chapters, however, obscures interrelated dynamics. Also, names, wars, and abstractions crowd out concrete explanations of socioeconomic realities. The book doesn't discuss the roots of urbanization and poverty in the colonial period's hut taxes and mines; nor does it specify the disastrous economic effects of the long war in Rhodesia. Though Mary Virginia Fox doesn't do appreciably better on Islam, generally her Tunisia (1994) and Jason Laure's Zambia (1991, both Childrens) give better explanations of these countries.
Loretta Kreider Andrews, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, MD
Copyright 1998 Cahners Business Information, Inc.