As a homeschooling parent to a precocious second-grader, I was thrilled to have the chance to review The World Almanac for Kids (World Almanac, 2014) with my daughter. The 352-page paperback, geared for kids eight to 13, is touted as “the best-selling” reference book for kids with more than 4.4 million copies sold, and The Detroit Free Press blurb tells potential readers that if we only buy one book for our kids this year, The World Almanac for Kids should be it. I hate to be the dissenting voice, but I’m not completely sold on the idea (and especially not for the kids on the younger end of the recommended age range).
First, I should explain that I’m not looking down on anyone else’s parenting choices or think your kid isn’t worthy of love because he or she know and love the music of Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift, because I really am not judging. I’m merely pointing out that I was a bit surprised that while reading the book, my daughter—who only knows of Justin Bieber in passing reference from friends—asked me if I had known his birthday is in March. That’s when I realized I had only been caught unawares because I had made the rookie mistake of judging a book by its title.
In my mind, the words “World Almanac” conjures up visions of full-color images of exotic lands, age-appropriate descriptions, and the little nuggets of information both parent and child file away because some stuff is just cool to learn about. And while The World Almanac for Kids 2014 does indeed have its fair share of relevant information and activities (for example, there’s quite a nice spread listing each of the U.S. presidents and a breakdown of the world’s major religions, and an explanation of how elements are named), the kind of facts many parents and educators want at the forefront aren’t given major play on the book jacket. That honor, it seems, is reserved for pop culture.
I used to be a kid once, oh so very long ago, so I get why One Direction, an iPhone, Taylor Swift, and Will Smith’s kid are smiling at us from the book cover. Hook the kids with what interests them and pat ourselves on the back when they showed up for Katy Perry but stayed for the explanation about volcanoes, right? The problem comes when the pop culture references are missed because they hold no relevance for the reader. Granted, it’s easy enough to glide on past, but it’s also just as easy to pick up a different book.
The bottom line? The World Almanac for Kids 2014 IS a great buy and a very educational resource, provided the reader takes the time to know what they are buying first. But is it the only book I’d buy for my child as the Detroit Free Press suggests?
Not by a long shot.
(View the World Almanac for Kids table of contents.)
HIPPOCAMPUS RATING: 3 of 5 stars. Educational, but heavy on pop culture.
WHO SHOULD READ
Anyone interested in learning about the world, its major religions, if the moon has volcanoes, and that buildings like The Basket House in Newark, Ohio, actually exist.