Kingfisher Book of Religions, The
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This issue’s cover is from Edward Ardizzone’s Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain. Brian Alderson discusses this classic picture book, now reissued in a beautiful new edition by Scholastic in ‘Classics in Short’. Thanks to Scholastic Children’s Books for their help in producing this January cover.
Written by broadcaster Trevor Barnes, this book covers the vast scope of human belief and faiths from the religion of the Ancient Egyptians to (briefly) the New Age Movement. Arranged in self-contained double-page spreads, it looks at the central tenets, founding figures, deities, sacred texts and ways of worship of the world’s great religions.
There is a wealth of good material here, including, for example, an interesting discussion of reform and revolution in Chinese religions, a subject usually glossed over in books of this sort. Though I personally liked Barnes’ writing style and found it interesting and even occasionally gripping (a talent in itself), it seems in places to be aimed more at adults than children. For example, phrases like ‘failing to meet humanity’s deepest needs’ and ‘uncluttered by ritual’ would surely benefit from further explanation. A more comprehensive glossary would certainly have helped to clarify terms such as ‘elemental’, ‘stable societies’ and ‘interdependent’.
My second criticism is that the book does not fulfil the promises made on the cover copy of ‘placing children firmly in the centre of the religious stage and allowing them to understand what it really means to follow different beliefs’. Neither the content nor the rather plodding design gave any sense of what it feels like to be part of a religion, or of the sense of awe and wonder religion often instils. The book cries out for something to lift and lighten it, perhaps interesting artwork or more inspirational quotes. That said, I am sure it will make a useful addition to the RE bookshelf, and be a book for the whole family to read and enjoy.