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Looking at Countries: Looking at Afghanistan Review by Melissa Theberge

Kathleen Pohl
Weekly Reader
3001 Cindel Drive
Delran, NJ 08075

What better area of the world to study today than Afghanistan as we progress through this dangerous and trying time in our global history? Although we are bombarded with nightly news images of Afghanistan, our children may not be well acquainted with the country's culture, geography, history, and daily life. This photograph-filled book does its best to convey a more complete picture of the country. Its 28 pages are engaging, and I like its large size--approximately ten inches tall and eight inches wide, which is a nice lap-sized book for an elementary-aged child.

The book is broken up into several topics, with large headings introducing each section, rather than traditional chapter labeling. Topics include landscape, weather, school, family, country and city life, houses, food, work, and fun--all of which are ideal for young children. The book is geared for grades two through four, but it immediately appealed to my slightly older child as well, since it provides an interesting view on a nation for which our imagination is not nearly as colorful as the reality.

The author balances fairly well the difficult reality of life in Afghanistan with the age of her audience. The ongoing war, the Taliban, rebuilding of cities, poverty, and new educational opportunities for girls are among the topics that concerned my second grader as we read together, but the treatment of these topics was gentle. I appreciated how many details of real life were portrayed in the book, and the related photographs truly brought the country and its people to life for us.

On a more technical note, the book is colorful and well organized. Photos and their captions are in matching background colors, and the Afghani flag's colors of red and green are used throughout. The text is limited to only a paragraph or two per page, and yet the book conveys far more information than you might expect. In addition to a glossary of important words and a list of websites that may be helpful for additional information, my favorite feature is the blank map in the back! A black-line map of Afghanistan is provided (with permission to copy given), as well as a list of cities, major bodies of water, major landforms, and surrounding countries for labeling. This provides a wonderful opportunity for additional geography study, and it warms the heart of this homeschool mother who loves it when a book is this thorough.

While this book is not written for homeschool families specifically, it certainly would be a fine complement to a homeschool geography program, a world cultures study, or even a current events focus. We are enjoying this book thoroughly and will likely be looking for others in this "Looking at Countries" series.

Product review by Melissa Theberge, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January 2009