I bought this book for the 2011-12 school year based on the recommendation from Sonlight. Sonlight uses it as part of their Core B+C curriculum. I used it with my first and third graders. My four year old sometimes listened in as well. It was one of our favorite purchases that year.
Each double page spread in this extremely inviting, colorful book focuses on a different county or people group around the world. Maps, statistics, and interesting facts about each country/group are included in ways that add to the conversation and allow the readers to understand more about the culture being taught. The photos are fantastic and are often of children. This has really helped my children to relate to the people we've read about.
Each section has an attention keeping narrative that explains the spiritual situation of the people described in that day's lesson. Be warned, the authors don't shy away from hard situations or put a politically correct spin on them. These have really opened up some deep discussions with my kids. In describing Muslims in Yemen, the book explains, "Because families are very close, it would be unthinkable for one member of the family to choose another religion. Such a person is considered a traitor who deserves to die." That brought up some serious questions that I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to address, but in the end, I was glad to have those conversations with my kids. In the back of the book they include some pages that explain many of the worlds dominant religions. These pages have helped me explain many things to my children over the course of this year.
Our favorite part of the book is the "To help you pray" section of each double page spread. This part gives things to thank God for as well as things to ask God for. I have really enjoyed praying with my children for people we would otherwise not even know about. My heart still melts when I think of my four year old praying at supper and asking God to "please be with the kids that live in the sewer, God. Be with them." My kids and I are much more missions-minded since we have started reading this book.
When used as a part of the Sonlight Core B+C program, kids study the history and geography of the world, starting with the Middle East and working towards more newly civilized parts of the planet. For example, they start with the Creation story in the Bible, Mesopotamia in their history lesson, the Middle East for Geography Songs and the countries of the Middle East for this book. More on that when I get around to reviewing Core B+C at some point in the future.
My only complaint with this book is that the edition I have was published in 2001. It's pre 9/11 and Operation Iraqi Freedom. When we read about Iraq, they talked a lot about Saddam Huessein as the leader. Obviously, I had to update that a little. I have no idea if an update is in the works or not, but I certainly hope so.
I give this book 5 out of 5 possible stars. *****