Sunday, September 13, 2009

If the World Were a Village...

If the World Were a Village: A Book about the World's People
Written by David Smith
Illustrated by
Shelagh Armstrong
Recommended Ages: Ages 8-12 (although I think that middle schoolers and high schoolers will find it compelling too.)

I remember being fascinated by If The World Were a Village when it first came out in 2002, and I recently came across it again. I love the idea of shrinking the world's population down to a village of 100, so that each person represents 62 million people from the real world. It makes the large numbers of our earth's population (over 6 billion people) much easier to understand for kids and adults alike.

Here's a sample of some of the interesting facts presented. If you have 100 people in the global village:

"61 are from Asia
13 are from Africa
12 are from Europe
8 are from South America, Central America (including Mexico) and the Caribbean
5 are from Canada and the United States
1 is from Oceania (an area that includes Australia, New Zealand and the islands of the south, west and central Pacific"

Pretty amazing. Or how about these facts on language: There are almost 6000 languages in the world. In the global village, 22 people speak a Chinese dialect, 9 speak English, 8 speak Hindi, 7 speak Spanish, 4 speak Arabic, 4 speak Bengali, 3 speak Portuguese and 3 speak Russian. You can see that this accounts for just 60 of the villagers.

The book goes on to talk about religion, money, clean air and water, literacy and education. There are just so many things to ponder. One particular paragraph stuck with me:

"There is no shortage of food in the global village. If all the food were divided equally, everyone would have enough to eat. But the food isn't divided equally. So although there is enough to feed the villagers, not everyone is well fed...Only 24 people always have enough to eat."

Yes, these are sobering statistics, but important ones for children in modern cultures to grasp. It's so easy for kids in first world countries to not understand the socioeconomic advantages they have. If The World Were a Village gives a clear-cut presentation of some of the basic realities of our multifaceted and complex world. Take electricity. In the village of 100, 76 people have electricity, 24 do not. And for those that have electricity,
42 have radios
24 have televisions
14 have telephones
7 have computers

The computer statistic alone is sure to make one pause and think.

If the World Were a Village is beautifully illustrated, with bold acrylics outlined in thick, black lines. Every page draws your eyes in, as you read the amazing facts that accompany it. This is a book to be savored and discussed, either in a family or classroom setting. There's a lengthy author's endnote that offers lots of ideas for using the book.

BookNosher Tidbit: If America Were a Village: A Book about the People of the United States was published in August of this year. I have not yet seen a copy, but can't wait to buy it and see how Smith has presented facts about the U.S. I promise to report back in once I've read it.

BookNosher Activity: I think it would be worthwhile to look at this book in conjunction with Material World: A Global Family Portrait by Peter Menzel. While Material World is not a children's book per se, children are fascinated by it. It's a photojournalistic depiction of 30 "statistically average" families in 30 countries. Each family is photographed with all of their possessions in front of their house. They are also interviewed and they talk about their favorite possessions, as well as their hopes for the future. It's fascinating. It has sat on the coffee table in our living room for years and is easily the most looked at book in our house.


Duke said...

This post is so true. There are so many people suffering!

carminette said...

The Material World folks also put out a great book about food called "What the World Eats." Like Material World it takes an "average" family from each of the cultures they visit and shows the family with a typical weeks worth of groceries spread out before them. It is facinating and another great one to share.

Robin Gaphni said...

I agree with you. I love "What the World Eats," and it would be a great companion piece to Material World and If The World Were a Village. Thanks for pointing that out!

L. Venkata Subramaniam said...

Sounds like an interesting book. Even though I am an adult I like the world within children's books a lot.