I bought The Random House Children’s Encyclopedia at Amanda’s school book fair last fall. It is simply beautiful - each article is one to three pages of blocked text with lots of interesting illustrations. For several days she browsed through it, spending a lot of time on The Human Body and Reproduction. Then it went on the shelf.
Yesterday I took it down to look through it. Still thrilled by the format and illustrations, I looked up subjects at random (after all, it’s Random House). A page about Ballet, with photos of Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev, and Anna Pavlova, and a drawing of the five positions.
ANNA PAVLOVA. IMAGE:ARTSALIVE.CA
One for Barbarians, with a beautiful jeweled gold belt buckle. Past Bats and Birds to Castles - a most wonderful diagram/drawing of a castle with a cutaway to show the interior - storerooms, spiral staircase, and lord and lady’s richly furnished bedchamber.
Circuses, Cities, Civil War. One page for English, one page for American. But where was Civil Rights? The Find Out More section of Civil War - American sent me to Abraham Lincoln, Slavery, and United States of America, history of. The Lincoln page gave me the Gettysburg address, the log cabin, the election, secession, the war, Mount Rushmore, and a timeline including the Emancipation Proclamation. The abolition movement was “led by white middle-class Northerners.” Harriet Tubman and Andrew Scott get a mention, but where is Frederic Douglass?
On to Slavery. A brief survey from Mesopotamia through Greece and Rome to the European slave trade and abolition, with some details about slave ships, slave markets, and slave rebellions.
United States of America, history of has a timeline. It includes entry into World War II, Kennedy’s assasination, Neil Armstrong on the moon, and Reagan signing the nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union. WHERE IS THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT?
Oh, good, there’s an index - one of my favorite parts of any non-fiction book. And it does list the civil rights movement. It sends me to a single page on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The page includes seventy words for the whole movement, plus about fifty for Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott. Eyes, Oil, and Pirates get a whole page each.
Selecting topics for an encyclopedia must be an agonizing and disputatious process. I can’t imagine doing it on my own, or even worse, with a group of “experts” all fiercely fighting for space. But neither can I imagine producing an encyclopedia for American children which doesn’t cover the Civil Rights Movement.
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