The Hello Atlas by Ben Handicott and Kenard Pak

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The Hello Atlas by Ben Handicott and Kenard Pak

Category: Children's Non-Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: A look at the children of the world, their homelands and their languages, this is a fun book with accompanying app
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 80 Date: October 2016
Publisher: Wide Eyed Editions
ISBN: 978-1847808493

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Sannu! Kina lafiya?

That's how Azumi greets us in this book. He's from Africa, and he speaks Hausa. Do you? Don't worry if not, because you're about to learn.

Featuring more than 100 different languages, this is a children's book of the world that goes far beyond a smattering of phrases in English, French and German, and as a trilingual (and a bit) linguistics graduate I was very excited to flick through it.

Let's start with the good. The book is beautifully presented with fabulous illustrations that bring the characters to life, and take the reader on an exciting adventure all over the world. Part of the country culture and geography shine through as we whizz from state to state, so we have orange trees in Spain, ski slopes in Italy, a palm tree line broadwalk in the USA and so on.

It's also sensibly arranged by continent. We start with Europe, and a map which shows different countries and different mother tongues. We then meet some of the children who live in these countries. We learn their names (Anastasia from Russia, Nada from Serbia….Bjork from Iceland) and each greets us with a few pleasantries, asking us how we are, telling us their name, or simply saying hello. With a hundred or so languages, there's not room for more than brief small talk. With each continental chapter we also learn a little about the language families that exist in the region. Many of us will know about Germanic and Romance languages, but terms such as Semitic languages and Indo-Aryan languages were new to me, and interesting to learn about (though for less intrigued children, this section is brief and easy to flick on past).

Now for the, shall we say, slightly less excellent areas. Firstly, there is a little repetition. Anastasia lives in Europe and speaks Russian, and Sasha lives in Asia and speaks Russian, and both greet us with the same phrase, several pages apart. I thought this could have been an opportunity to branch out. Secondly, we have a list of phrases at the back, with English translations….and in a number of cases we have English being translated into English. Which just seemed a bit daft.

But the biggest let down, to me, was the app that you are encouraged to download to use with the book. I did as instructed, and quickly installed it. It's free for Apple and Android, so no issues there, though it is quite large so I had to delete something else to make room for it. But then I played with it. I was expecting it to be a read along companion for the book, so I could look at, say, page 38 and get some help on how to pronounce the 4 languages that feature. Because although I do know more than my fair share of languages, I don't currently speak Navajo or Sioux Dakota or so on. Quickly, though, I had to say Doka to this idea because the app isn't set out for this. Instead, you have to flip to the back of the book where each language is lined up, and follow along the pronunciation of the phrases here. This is less fun because you're not looking at the excellent pictures that feature in the book, you're just looking at a list of vocab. Also, I found it odd that at this stage we still didn't have the same phrases for each language. There's a lot of overlap with hello, how are you? and so on, but within the 6 or 7 phrases for each language we end up learning how to wish someone a happy birthday in French and Breton and Lithuanian, but not in Spanish or Polish or Khmer.

Don't misunderstand me – it is a lovely book to flick through, and for children less bothered by phonetic accuracy there would be very few complaints because they could simply read the letters on the page and hazard a guess at the pronunciation, and this may be good enough. The book does a good job at showing how big the world is. Not every language can be featured, and if you're unlucky you may not find the language you're looking for (Temne and Mende which I learnt while living in Sierra Leone are not included, for example) but really there's more than you could ask for, and more than you could imagine, in this book. The facility to hear the exact pronunciation of the words and phrases is incorporated but it's not as easy to access as I had expected, and this is reflected in my star rating. You can read the book and you can listen and learn, but I docked a star because the two tasks don't coincide, unfortunately.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending us a copy to review. For another fun atlas gift, have a look at Atlas of Adventures by Lucy Letherland.

Buy The Hello Atlas by Ben Handicott and Kenard Pak at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Hello Atlas by Ben Handicott and Kenard Pak at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Hello Atlas by Ben Handicott and Kenard Pak at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Hello Atlas by Ben Handicott and Kenard Pak at Amazon.com.


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