Kathy Bennett

The authors and editors of the nine-volume The Oxford American Children's Encyclopedia make some rather nice assumptions about their audience that they are curious and eager to learn. The approximately 2,000 entries, including those in a separate volume of nearly 500 biographies, are concise, focused, and written in language that is simple but not simplistic. Also included in this new set is a gazetteer, a world history timeline, and extensive cross-references. The strengths of the The Oxford American Children's Encyclopedia include the one-page entries, photos and illustrations, and the concise delivery of information, not to mention the reasonable price.

Oxford University Press recently adapted their popular children's set to an American audience, incorporating entries on all aspects of American history and geography. The only technical error spotted in this translation from British to American culture was a reference to the size of the ancient Anglo-Saxon ship, Sutton Hoo. It was stated to be over 24 m (79 in) long, rather than the correct 79 feet in length. The entry on burial mounds focuses on British sites, making a cursory mention of Native American burial mounds.

The authors do not limit language, but use definitions within a sentence as a way for children to expand their vocabulary and understand basic concepts. The entry on allegories, for example, defines this literary technique as a story or picture that can be enjoyed for itself but also has a deeper meaning ; the mathematics concept of averages is explained so even the most self-doubting mathematician can understand mean, median, and mode.

The Oxford American Children's Encyclopedia is a child-friendly reference work, perfect for the traditional classroom, home-schooled learners, and independent learners. Though reference materials are available on CD-ROM and online, there is no replacement for the experience of turning the pages of a well-written and well-designed reference book.

Kathy Bennett is a high-school librarian in Nashville, Tennessee.

The authors and editors of the nine-volume The Oxford American Children's Encyclopedia make some rather nice assumptions about their audience that they are curious and eager to learn. The approximately 2,000 entries, including those in a separate volume of nearly 500 biographies, are concise, focused, and written in language that is simple but not simplistic. […]

DK Children's Illustrated Encyclopedia, a one-volume reference book targeted to the interests and reading abilities of young people ages 7-10, is a gem. Created by Dorling Kindersley, it reflects the same outstanding quality as their popular Eyewitness series. The 450 entries are accompanied by 3,500 illustrations including photos, drawings, maps, and timelines.

Like many encyclopedias, the writing is clear and concise. What makes this volume different is its alluring presentation. Single entries deal with timeless questions in a comparative fashion. Using facts and illustrations, this volume educates the reader on puzzlers such as the differences between alligators and crocodiles, rabbits and hares, ships and boats.

Presentation, topic selection, and writing style are excellent in the DK Children's Illustrated Encyclopedia; however, the real challenge of reviewing an encyclopedia comes in evaluating its content. Is the writing fair and unbiased? Does the text deal with the important issues of a subject? My Russian colleague complimented the piece on her homeland, including history and current events, remarking on the factual approach, style, and art work included. My Indian assistant remarked that the entry on India is very good, reliable, and attractive. My Muslim friend, however, made an interesting observation on the entry on Mohammed: He approved of the written text, but noted that there were drawings of Mohammed and the Angel Gabriel, something that does not occur in Muslim culture, and I shared this information with DK.

Years ago, at Peabody Library School, wise Frances Cheney lectured on reference materials, pointing out that it was a rare individual who read an encyclopedia cover to cover.

Times have changed, book design has reached a new art, and the methods of presentation are more exciting than ever. DK Children's Illustrated Encyclopedia will be read cover to cover by individuals of both rare and not-so-rare distinction.

Kathy Bennett is a high school librarian in Nashville, Tennessee.

DK Children's Illustrated Encyclopedia, a one-volume reference book targeted to the interests and reading abilities of young people ages 7-10, is a gem. Created by Dorling Kindersley, it reflects the same outstanding quality as their popular Eyewitness series. The 450 entries are accompanied by 3,500 illustrations including photos, drawings, maps, and timelines. Like many encyclopedias, […]

A Band of Angels by award-winning author Deborah Hopkinson skillfully weaves the story of the Jubilee Singers of Nashville's Fisk College within the context of family lore. A loving narrator, Aunt Beth, tells an attentive niece how her great-grandmother Ella led the Jubilee Singers to perform the old sorrow songs, the songs of slavery, to audiences all over the world. Through seven years of travel, the young group earned enough money to salvage the ailing Fisk College, now Fisk University.

Hopkinson claims her story is fiction, though she explains in "A Note About the Story" at the end of the text that it is based on the life of Ella Shephard Moore. A Band of Angels is a strong story of determination, survival, the rewards of hard work and dedication. Hopkinson tells us that though none of the original Jubilee Singers graduated from college, their years of singing and traveling made that success possible for thousands that followed them at Fisk.

Aunt Beth is based on Fisk Special Collections librarian Beth Howse, who is a pianist, the great-granddaughter of Ella Shephard, and Jubilee Singer herself. Mrs. Howse praises Hopkinson's portrayal of Ella Shephard's story and is proud that the story of her great-grandmother now belongs to a very special body of children's literature that brings history alive for young children.

Illustrator Raul Colon supports the text with warm, glowing, textured paintings. The full-page illustrations are beautiful, reminiscent of old, sepia-toned photographs. Portraits and short biographical sketches of each of the original Jubilee singers are included. Also included is a list of the old Jubilee songs, including "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" from which the book's title is taken. Aunt Beth reminds her niece, and the reader, that "they called them spirituals, or jubilee songs, because the word jubilee means a time of hope and freedom." Although February is Black History Month, the theme of A Band of Angels is important all year long. It is a refreshing story that eloquently illustrates the power of dreams, hard work, determination, and hope.

A Band of Angels by award-winning author Deborah Hopkinson skillfully weaves the story of the Jubilee Singers of Nashville's Fisk College within the context of family lore. A loving narrator, Aunt Beth, tells an attentive niece how her great-grandmother Ella led the Jubilee Singers to perform the old sorrow songs, the songs of slavery, to […]

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