Words like ‘sumptuous’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘enticing’ immediately spring to mind on opening this large-format guide to the world religions. Unfortunately, as each double-page spread is studied, they are slowly replaced first by ‘busy’ and then by ‘congested’ and eventually ‘confusing’.
The book is aimed principally at Key Stage 2 readers (7-11 year-olds), although older children will not find it simplistic, and looks at the faiths through the eyes and words of young adherents. The chief success of this device is that it makes religious faith seem a natural part of the lives of the featured children. The downside is that, since explanations must be phrased in their words (or at least what purports to be their own words), they are sometimes less than adequate. Just occasionally reality bursts through. Ten-year-old Antonino from Italy receives not what the caption says is the traditional First Communion gift of a rosary or white-covered Bible but a computer.
It is a huge area to cover in 80 pages, especially as the author includes not just the six major faiths but also Shinto, Taoism, Jainism and even Zoroastrianism. The early spread which lumps the beliefs of Ancient Egypt, Aboriginal Australians and Native Americans together with ancestor and spirit worship is even more indigestible. Even so, it looks good.