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 I would be embarrassed if my Nigerian neighbours saw one of my kids getting lame, out of date information from this book.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 The artist and writer section is woefully out of date – how are you going to write a book on Nigeria without including who the Man Booker committee called “the father of modern African writing” Chinua Achebe?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: I couldn’t quite believe we still had this on the shelves, following the recent controversy over appropriating Native American dress. This children’s book shows how ‘you and your friends can decorate yourselves and pretend you are living in a jungle village.’ My favourite completely inappropriate jungle-inspired game though has to be The Pygmy’s Path. This book, and others like it, was my childhood in a nutshell, and a classic example of how times have changed!
Holly: There is a fine line between teaching children about other cultures through playing their games and wearing their clothes and eating their foods…and complete and utter disrespect by turning all that into a farce, or mockery. Here is a missed opportunity that should have been weeded long ago.