This Week’s Word Is “Britannica.”
If you’re a certain age in the UK, you’ll associate knowledge with the Encyclopedia Britannica. A classic multi-volume encyclopedia that adorned libraries across the nation. It was the ultimate sign of homework well done if you’d had to look it up in Britannica. As a young impressionable book geek, I loved the idea of Britannica; it was such a big book, its index alone took up an entire book! With the internet bringing information straight into people’s houses, tomes like the Encyclopedia Britannica have fallen out of use, but don’t start thinking they’re not relevant. Britannica is back with an All New Children’s Encyclopedia and it’s an updated classic!
What is Britannica: All New Children’s Encyclopedia?
Britannica is a new imprint, that is part of the What on Earth? publishing house, whose books I’ve raved about before. This encyclopedia is edited by Christopher Lloyd, author of Absolutely Everything, and it’s easy to see that the two books share the same DNA (which, incidentally, has 6 separate entries in the book!).
The encylopedia has a gorgeous brushed tactile cover and is a whopping 414 pages (If your child has endless questions after reading The History of Everything in 32 pages, this is a logical next step!) The pages are printed on matt paper (all my encyclopedias I had when I was growing up were glossy) and are half an inch shorter than a piece of A4. There’s a solid mix of text and images on every page, with the images being a mix of infographics, diagrams, and photos. All in all, the visual appeal of the book is impressive.
The All New Children’s Encyclopedia is broken down into 8 sections that run broadly chronologically, though, where applicable, each section has modern information included. For example, the book opens with “The Universe,” starting with the Big Bang, but ending with space probes.
Each section is concluded with an “Ask the Experts,” page, which asks a few simple questions of contemporary scientists or historians, and then a quiz to test your knowledge of the section. One other little feature I like, apart its horrific implications for the English language, is the “Listified” columns. These are interspersed throughout the book and provide interesting bullet points about a given subject. e.g. “Speed Demons…Listified.” Other interesting sidebars include “Game Changers,” a spotlight on events or individuals that profoundly affected the course of history and “Note from the Expert,” little snippets of explanatory texts from current experts in the relevant field.
The Encyclopedia is broken down as follows:
- The Universe. Big Bang, Stars, Planets, and Space Exploration.
- Earth. The formation of the Earth, Plate Tectonics, Fossils, and Climate.
- Matter. Atoms, Elements, Gravity, and Energy.
- Life. Evolution, Classification, and Habitats
- Humans. DNA, Language, Calendars, Money, and lots lots more.
- Ancient and Medieval Times. The Fertile Crescent, Minoans, Greeks, Romans, Africa, and China.
- Modern Times. Empire, Slavery, Communism, World War.
- Today and Tomorrow. Inequality, Climate Change, the internet, and the Future!
The end of the book has a comprehensive bibliography of source materials, a decent glossary, index (but not one that takes up a whole book), and some picture credits.
Why Read Britannica All New Children’s Encyclopedia?
This book has “present” written all over it. It’s not the sort of book your kids are likely to rave about it receiving but they will definitely come to appreciate it over time. It has the answers to a million homework assignments contained within. This book is traditionally the sort of book your Aunt gave you, and whilst I don’t like to make sweeping generalizations, it still has that vibe about it now. Which I suppose is very on-brand for Britannica.
We often joke about “improving” books in this house, and this book is exactly one of those.
It’s a beautifully constructed primer of just about everything. It’s everything an encyclopedia should be, without the risk you’ll find horrible misinformation like you might from a google search. Visually stunning, it’s the sort of book I’d have loved leafing through as an 11-year-old. It’s chock full of facts and brimming with explanations. The various different sidebars keep things interesting, providing different methods of imparting information. There is something of interest on every page.
You’d expect a book that bore Britannica name would be of high quality, and this All New Children’s Encyclopedia absolutely is.
If you’d like to pick up a copy of Britannica: All New Children’s Encyclopedia, you can do so here, in the US and here in the UK. (Affiliate links.)
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to write this review.