Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Kids Can Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This interesting new book by David J. Smith, the author of If the World Were A Village is designed to help children and adults understand concepts like the relative size of the Earth, other planets and the Milky Way, or the different amounts of resources consumed by people in different countries. This is done using beautiful illustrations by Steve Adams that break down these tricky to grasp concepts into images that the reader can get their head around.
Some of these visual metaphors work better than others. For example the book tells us that if the milky way were shrunk to the size of a dinner plate then the Earth would be a speck of dust on that dinner plate that was too small to see, but the visible universe would be about the size of Belgium. Maybe this metaphor would make more sense to a European, but speaking for myself I find it hard, off the top of my head, to picture how big Belgium is (I mean, I know it's smaller than Australia, but how small exactly I'm not sure without looking it up) . The pictures are occasionally a little confusing too. There is a page where the elements of the solar system are reduced to the size of different types of ball (Mercury is a golf ball, Venus is a tennis ball, Earth is a baseball and so on), but the effect is somewhat spoiled by the depiction of tiny humans who are not to scale with the balls.
My favourite page was where human inventions over time are shown as a 36 inch tape measure, with fire at the beginning and all the inventions of the past 2000 years (the number zero, paper, plastic, the internet...) in the last 1/10 of an inch. I must admit that blew my mind, which is just what this book is supposed to do.
If is a great starting point to get children thinking about mathematical concepts like scale, but also about social justice issues like water use and the distribution of wealth. In the back of the book there are suggestions for teachers and parents for using the book as a teaching tool and other exercises you could do to further explore the same themes. I would definitely recommend it for use in both the home and classroom.
I'm a European who has lived in Belgium and I have no idea how big it is really.... again I know that relatively it is fairly small but what does that mean actually? So don't be too hard on yourself for not knowing! Maybe going away and looking it up is all part of the learning process :)
The book sounds fascinating, a really good starting point for some interesting discussions. Thanks for the review!