In Focus: Cities by Libby Walden

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In Focus: Cities by Libby Walden

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Category: Children's Non-Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A welter of little facts for little children point out the differences to be had between ten major cities around the world.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 26 Date: July 2017
Publisher: 360 Degrees
ISBN: 9781848575912

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The first book in this series promised 101 close-ups, cross sections and/or cutways, but here we're restricted to just ten. Why? Because the subject matters are so much bigger – one is home to 37 million people, of all things. Yes, we're talking cities, and while this book tries to follow the previous – different artist every page, an exclusive inside look within the volume, and a self-deceiving page count – we are definitely in new territory. We're seeking the trivial, the geographical and the cultural, all so that the inquisitive young student can find out the variety to be had in the world's metropolises.

And, it has to be said, that close-up cutaway style really does fall by the wayside quickly. Just as before, every sheet of this book is designed to be opened out, so the whole book covers 36 inches of a young reader's bedspread or desk. But seldom does the inside of the book as it were provide an inside look. Yes, open the flaps concerning Moscow and there is a handy map-styled diagram and information about the Kremlin, the epitome of the city within a city, but that's the exception that proves the rule. Mostly the artwork is pleasant, and distinctive – I certainly liked the classic postcard album-styled spread concerning Rome.

The young geographer may well find fault with this book – the Kremlin and London aside, we don't really get maps, however well the New York featured first here is recognisable. What we do get is trivial – stylised skylines with the buildings' heights appended; the least practical map of Cairo one could have the misfortune of relying on; a Rio that is one beach, one statue and one slum. Still, everything is accompanied by a very generous, very accurate and very informative spread of factoids courtesy of the text, and here the culture is enlivened – from karaoke to kabuki, and from Paris's museums and artworks to Istanbul's mosque after mosque after mosque.

It's that abundance of detail, even if it is trivia, that makes this book worthwhile. There's so much of it, in fact, that it becomes a much longer read than you first expected. It's one of those volumes that don't get to be definitive about anything, but instead show its subject off by highlighting the superlative and the differences to pinpoint what the young scholar should be made aware of. So if you want to leap from the Big Apple to the forgotten orchards of peaches in a place that looks like a snail, then you won't find any straight definitions of cities, or essay-length discussions of life within them, but you will find a quite fascinating journey around what makes several well-known examples so remarkable.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

For a closer look at towns, with much to explore on the page, there is also City Atlas: Discover the world with 30 city maps by Martin Haake and Georgia Cherry.

Buy In Focus: Cities by Libby Walden at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy In Focus: Cities by Libby Walden at

Buy In Focus: Cities by Libby Walden at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy In Focus: Cities by Libby Walden at


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