Submitter: This book is from a junior non-fiction series clearly designed for research projects. It was probably ok when it was published — 15 years ago. But culture has moved on and many new things could be added, which is why books like this need to be eliminated in favour of more detailed and current information in databases. This book was not only in a library with great internet access (in a city with widespread access), there is a significant Nigerian population [here]. I would be embarrassed if my Nigerian neighbours saw one of my kids getting lame, out of date information from this book. There is a sort of wishful naive thinking with a lot of the writing on colonialism in particular, using an “objective” tone to present facts without the contexts of racism or mentioning economic exploitation. The artist and writer section is woefully out of date – how are you going to write a book on Nigeria without including who the Man Booker committee called “the father of modern African writing” Chinua Achebe? The section on how unskilled everyone is in Nigeria is positively cringe-worthy. There is a dominant narrative of Nigerians as simple, backwards people that does not belong in a public library in 2017.
Holly: It’s funny how the older you get, the more recent dates seem that were actually 15 years ago. That’s right, folks, 2002 was 15 loooong years ago. Country books have a shorter shelf life than you may realize. Cultural terms used to describe the people, significant national events, statistics cited – even the fashion depicted by the people pictured – all date these books pretty quickly. Submitter points out some other reasons that this particular book needs to be replaced with something more recent and with a different tone. Submitter’s town has a large Nigerian population, which means that children will want to learn about that culture. Nigerian children should have access to materials about their heritage, and other children should learn about their Nigerian friends and neighbors from sources that are accurate.
Then and Now series
Lerner Publications Company. Geography Department
Here’s the good news: there are some gorgeous photos of Ukrainian people and places in this book. It is also organized nicely for older children, with usable data laid out in an understandable way.
Here’s the bad news: it is 24 years old. Those were 24 big years in Ukrainian history, and the data is no longer accurate. Wikipedia is a better choice at this point.
Ukraine is in the news a lot, and a great choice for those country reports that students are always doing. Give a kid a chance. Update!
Submitter: This book is older than dirt, has no color pictures, and has some racist overtones. Because it is from 1970, some of the language is dated and inappropriate. There are plenty of ways to deal with complicated history in an age appropriate manner. Here’s a sample of the text: “By 1700, whatever the cause may have been, the Chibchas had replaced their own language with Spanish and had largely abandoned their old religion to become pious and devoted Christians. They were relatively peacefully assimilated into the ways of the Spanish, and many, through their marriages with whites, lost their Indian identity; their children of mixed blood form the largest blood strain in Columbia today. (Racial prejudice has never been a strong factor in Columbia’s life and history.)–page 46
Holly: Country books have a life span of maybe ten years. Maaayyybe twenty years in some cases. A book about the land and people of the United States, written in 1970, would include images and attitudes that no longer represent what our country is really like. Why, then, is it OK to have books about other countries that are 40+ years old? Answer: it isn’t. This is a juvenile book, so isn’t it important that children learn about countries and cultures respectfully, appropriately, and – oh, I don’t know – accurately?