Children's Literature Reviews for Teaching History

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Material World

Title: Material World: A Global Family Portrait
Authors: Peter Menzel et al.
Category: Non-Fiction

Topic: World Geography, Materialism

Grade Level: 4 - 12 (the main content is communicated in the book's hundred of photos so younger students can still learn a lot from it, regardless of their reading level)
Rating by: Ann B.
Content: This book does the following...
  • Focuses on the parts of the topic that are most interesting.
  • Prompts student to want to find out even more about a topic.
  • Makes the content relevant to the students’ lives.
  • Prompts students to reflect on their own lives and choices.

Effectiveness as a Learning Tool: This book includes the following...
  • Visuals that deepen the students’ understanding of the topic.
  • Visuals that make students want to read the book.
  • Visuals that help break up big chunks of text.
  • A table of contents. 

  • Appropriate for everyone in class - even the most reluctant readers can learn from it. 

Age Appropriate Content?
  • Just Right

Comment from Ann B.:
I've never taught a straight world geography class, but I've always kept this book on the shelf in my classroom.  It's a great book to have on hand if a student finishes a project early.  The premise of the book is intriguing to almost any student, and even just spending five minutes flipping through this will gets them thinking.  The authors have also published other books based on the same idea, including Women in the Material World and Hungry Planet: What the World Eats.

Amazon's Product Review:
"In honor of the United Nations-sponsored International Year of the Family in 1994, award-winning photojournalist Peter Menzel brought together 16 of the world's leading photographers to create a visual portrait of life in 30 nations. Material World tackles its wide subject by zooming in, allowing one household to represent an entire nation. Photographers spent one week living with a "statistically average" family in each country, learning about their work, their attitudes toward their possessions, and their hopes for the future. Then a "big picture" shot of the family was taken outside the dwelling, surrounded by all their (many or few) material goods.

The book provides sidebars offering statistics and a brief history for each country, as well as personal notes from the photographers about their experiences. But it is the "big pictures" that tell most of the story. In one, a British family pauses before a meal of tea and crumpets under a cloudy sky. In another, wary Bosnians sit beside mattresses used as sniper barricades. A Malian family composed of a husband, his two wives, and their children rests before a few cooking and washing implements in golden afternoon light. Material World is a lesson in economics and geography, reminding us of the world's inequities, but also of humanity's common threads. An engrossing, enlightening book. --Maria Dolan"

Link to reviews on Amazon
Link to the website of the author: Peter Menzel
Link to companion site, "World in the Balance" at PBS
Buy it from your local bookstore via Indie Bound

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