Places In Time Book Reviews

view titles, May 2009

On A Brief Political and Geographic History of Africa: Where Are the Belgian Congo, Rhodesia, and Kush?

The map of Africa, with its distinctive contours, is familiar to most people. A brief glimpse at the evening news will acquaint even the casual observer with place names such as Egypt, Sudan, the Congo, and Zimbabwe. Global politics, war, and famine draw attention to these locations. According to author, John Davenport, teacher of social studies at Corte Madera Middle School in Portola Valley, California, readers tend to forget that Africa is much larger than the points on the map that make it onto television screens. As told in A Brief Political and Geographic History of Africa, it is also easily forgotten that Africa is much older than the most recent news. Many places on what was once known as the Dark Continent have disappeared, from maps and from awareness. Mighty empires have risen and fallen in Africa; great kingdoms have come and gone. City-states have altered the course of history, while entire cultures have emerged only to dissolve in time. Colonies, possessed and exploited by foreigners who cared little for the local people, have appeared and then, seemingly in an instant, vanished. The wisps of memory swirl around Africa as they do on no other continent.

Kush, the Belgian Congo, Rhodesia -- these places have been erased from modern maps of the world. At one time, they represented the pride and prestige of kings and queens, yet in the twenty-first century, none of these places exist anymore. They have dissolved into the ages; few know them and even fewer can locate them. Still, their legacies live on. The places they were have become nations we recognize. Changing and shifting, coming in and out of focus, they have survived to this day as places in time.

The Places in Time series, of which A Brief Political and Geographic History of Africa is a part, is the resource to use to help students identify places that no longer exist on present-day maps. Volumes in the series show students in grades 3-7 where each place was, and gives its context in time. Each chapter shows how a region changed names through time via colorful maps, two per chapter, and a changing chapter timeline. Modern-day maps show current names and boundaries. The books in the series present the historical progression of each region through time, focusing on the people involved in the expanding -- or losing -- of empires. The books deal with geographical and political divisions and subdivisions; reasons for the divisions (religious and otherwise); and the changing politics through time, showing an evolution to the present day. Sidebar stories provide in-depth information for related topics or personalities touched upon in each chapter.

Few people are aware of Africa's rich past, dynamic present, and promising future. Africans, however, look back into a yesteryear crowded with empires and kingdoms and into a tomorrow filled with economic and political potential. The difference between these two ways of seeing Africa emerges from the fact that so many of the places that once dominated its landscape have disappeared from the world's maps. A Brief Political and Geographic History of Africa helps correct the misconception by helping students match up the old with the new.

School Library Journal, August 2008

On the Places In Time series

Titles have lots of color, large type, many photos, plenty of maps, and clear writing. Chapters are followed by a one-page sidebar that features a biography or important event. Chapter source notes and further reading lists add value... These volumes are attractive and may interest readers in history and geography...

VOYA, February 2008

On A Brief Political History of Asia and A Brief Political History of Latin America

This colorful, vividly produced new geographical series provides an interesting take on the subject of place names. All continents except Antarctica are represented in the six series titles. (The Middle East is in a separate volume from Asia). Each book examines the general history of a continent and then chooses specific countries to demonstrate how explorations, wars, and political regimes have affected the place names as well as the culture of the area. Colorful illustrations, chronologies, and maps clarify the evolution of the countries discussed from the ancient era to the present. In fact, many 2007 events are mentioned in the time lines. In Latin America, it is explained why only Brazilians speak Portuguese, how viceroyalties were formed, and how the struggle for independence redrew South American borders for more than a hundred years. In Asia, the impact of the Vietnam War is explained in the renaming of many places, including Cambodia to Kampuchea and Burma to Myanmar. Also included are the dynastic history of China and the influence of Genghis Khan and his descendants on the rest of the continent.

Although somewhat slight in content and size, the series tells many of the stories behind the outdated maps a reader would find in a historical atlas. Many interesting historical photos and a pleasing graphic layout add to the volumes� attraction for browsers. The writing style is simple and clear, and the text covers more political and historical subjects than the cultural ones usually found in juvenile country studies. All series authors are well know writers of other children�s books. Each volume has comprehensive index and extensive source list.

Booklist, October 2007

On A Brief Political History of Latin America

The six books in the Places in Time series divide the world into regions and offer historical surveys of countries, including their changing names, shifting borders, and occasional disappearances. Defining Latin America as everything south of the U.S. border with Mexico, this volume subdivides the region into eight areas and, chapter by chapter, traces the history of each one, not from its beginnings but from the beginning of European contact in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century. Each chapter includes an information-packed text; a time line running along the page bottoms; one or more good, clearly labeled maps; photos of people, sites, and artifacts; and reproductions of several period paintings and prints. Concluding the chapters are sidebars carrying related information, such as the history and meaning of the term banana republic or a biography of Eva Peron. The many color illustrations give the pages and approachable look. A regional time line, a glossary, chapter notes, and lists of books and Internet sites conclude the presentation. A useful addition to many library collections.