Simon Holland (text), Jill Calder (illus.), The Picture Atlas, Bloomsbury, 1 Nov 2017, 64pp., $26.99 (hbk), ISBN: 9781408884867
The Picture Atlas is an atlas with a difference. It takes the reader on a journey around the world with full colour double page spreads that include not only maps but images and facts about the creatures, people, landscapes and features of various parts of the world. While it has a section for each continent (or part thereof) it also includes sections on rainforests, European food, the African grasslands, the Indian Ocean, the Australian Outback, and life in Antarctica. For each section there is a double page map showing features of that region, followed by two pages of facts and detail. For some maps the book needs to be turned on its short end to take in the full image.
Each map is extremely colourful, dividing the land mass into states or countries as appropriate through the use of different colours. Laid across the top of this are various images showing what can be found there. There is plenty of interesting detail. The written pages are also laid out over a double page image, with blocks of information separated by various pictures. The art style is reminiscent of Quentin Blake, more like cartoony sketches than a finely detailed style, but with a very bold range of colours and various fonts used throughout. This creates a sense of looseness and variety, which some children will no doubt enjoy. For myself and my young assistant it lacked a coherent feel and some pages felt overwhelming, making it hard to take in all the detail.
The factual information included ranges from historical to cultural snippets, as well as descriptions of native animals. There is plenty of interesting information to capture a young reader’s attention and more can be discovered on repeated exploration.
The Picture Atlas is very much an introductory book for younger readers, skimming a wide variety of topics briefly. The maps will not be useful for accuracy but they do give a sense of the life of the region. The front cover is very appealing, with embossing, while the predominantly white background brings out the bold colours. For kids who are interested in geography and trivia, this will be a useful resource.
Reviewed by Rachel Le Rossignol