The authors and editors of the nine-volume The Oxford American Children's Encyclopedia make some rather nice assumptions about their audience that they are curious and eager to learn. The approximately 2,000 entries, including those in a separate volume of nearly 500 biographies, are concise, focused, and written in language that is simple but not simplistic. Also included in this new set is a gazetteer, a world history timeline, and extensive cross-references. The strengths of the The Oxford American Children's Encyclopedia include the one-page entries, photos and illustrations, and the concise delivery of information, not to mention the reasonable price.
Oxford University Press recently adapted their popular children's set to an American audience, incorporating entries on all aspects of American history and geography. The only technical error spotted in this translation from British to American culture was a reference to the size of the ancient Anglo-Saxon ship, Sutton Hoo. It was stated to be over 24 m (79 in) long, rather than the correct 79 feet in length. The entry on burial mounds focuses on British sites, making a cursory mention of Native American burial mounds.
The authors do not limit language, but use definitions within a sentence as a way for children to expand their vocabulary and understand basic concepts. The entry on allegories, for example, defines this literary technique as a story or picture that can be enjoyed for itself but also has a deeper meaning ; the mathematics concept of averages is explained so even the most self-doubting mathematician can understand mean, median, and mode.
The Oxford American Children's Encyclopedia is a child-friendly reference work, perfect for the traditional classroom, home-schooled learners, and independent learners. Though reference materials are available on CD-ROM and online, there is no replacement for the experience of turning the pages of a well-written and well-designed reference book.
Kathy Bennett is a high-school librarian in Nashville, Tennessee.