nonfiction nuggets…about peoples and cultures

Here’s a book to help you and your kids appreciate the amazing diversity of peoples and cultures in our world.

 How People Live was published by Dorling Kindersley in 2003, so it’s fairly new.  It’s a hefty, coffee-table-sized book just bursting with gorgeous photos of peoples from all corners of the globe and interesting information about their lives.  The book is divided into 6 world regions:  North and Central America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, The Pacific and Australia.  Within each region, a number of two-page spreads highlight particular countries, or sections of countries, but also – and this is one of my favorite aspects of this book – quite often ethnic groups are highlighted instead of geopolitical areas.  So, for example, in Africa, which is dear to my heart, instead of the typical breakdown with Egypt, East Africa, West Africa, and so on, the contents list the Tuareg, Dogon, San and Malagasy peoples among others.  Because of this, the information more accurately portrays people and their cultures — no lumping together of very dissimilar ethnic groups just because they live on the same continent!  We learn, when we read on the Nenets of Western Siberia, about the harsh conditions of their region, the many ways they depend upon reindeer, their modern use of boarding schools in order to educate children from a nomadic culture, and several  specific practices which are part of their animistic beliefs including a sacred sleigh and a house idol.  All of this is beautifully, invitingly laid out with accompanying photos that I could linger over for a long while.  This is a book that makes you want to find out more, which is one mark of a great book.

 Want to know about Samoan tattoos?  Extraordinary headdresses of the Miao women in China?  Bavarian Santa Claus marches?  The reed houses of the Peruvian Uro people?  The Calgary Stampede?  This is a book to pore over with your children, and then again by yourself after they’re in bed!