December 1998

A gem of a reference book

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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.

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