Guidebooks are something I am picky about. After backpacking my way around Asia and wasting my time and money on other guidebooks, I realized that Lonely Planet books were the best. They are the most knowledgeable about interesting nooks and crannies in any and all destinations; the photographs are like fantastic invitations daring you to visit. You can’t go wrong.
When I found out that Lonely Planet was branching out from guidebooks to more informative books for children, I was intrigued. These books claim to have the “inside scoop” on specific countries or cities. It makes sense to branch out, especially given the huge and impressive amount of information and photographs that they have at their fingertips.
This Not For Parents: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know series includes four countries (Australia, Great Britain, China, and the U.S.A.) and four cities (London, New York, Paris, Rome). They are available in a set or individually. They are best suited for middle school and high school aged kids. I know that’s a broad range, but there is something in here for everyone, and the pictures and facts are so fascinating that you could easily put this book on a shelf, let it gather a bit of dust, then pick it up and become completely absorbed in it all over again.
The China book was one of my favorites. I’ve traveled in Southeast Asia and studied the region after returning from it, so I have a deep appreciation for China and its influence on the entire region. I am hardly an expert, but have a good working knowledge of its history and culture.
Some sort of groundwork is best before opening the pages of this book. It lacks flow and depth, so being somewhat familiar with the country will help you and your child. The team at Lonely Planet has an amazing array of great facts and informative snippets to pile onto whatever basic knowledge you have before opening the book.
This book does a lot really well:
• It is engaging. The photographs pull the reader in quickly; even my four year old enjoyed paging through the book, asking “What’s that?!” at nearly every page. The editors throw in little text bubbles making artwork or people in photograph say something funny; they earned smiles and chuckles from me.
• It is digestible. For better or for worse, this is not a history book with pages of paragraphs providing in-depth information. Each “chapter” is just a double-page spread with 5-12 photos packed in. Some examples: the Chinese zodiac, Great Wall, pandas and Chinese Opera.
• It teaches the culture. Lonely Planet guidebooks excel at their ability to show who the people are, what belief systems they have, and how the country has evolved. Exploring culture is the best part of traveling, I think. The chapter on the importance of rice, and how it permeates every aspect of life, is one example. (Oftentimes people greet one another with “Have you eaten rice today?” instead of “How are you?”)
• It points to where you can get more information. I am a self-professed nerd, and always want more information when I’m immersing myself into something or some place. At the end of each chapter is a website for more details about that subject.
Concerns I have about the book:
• Where is the map?! How can there be a book with so many great facts about such an amazing place without first providing the roots to the story in geography? I can’t believe there is no map in the book—I actually paged through it twice because I was sure I simply missed it. (There is a map in the other three country books, so the absence of a map in the China book is even more mysterious.)
• What other books should your child read to gain a good understanding of China? I hope that kids reading this book also read a short history on China and a novel or two that is based on/in the region.
• How are we similar to Chinese people? Because China is so very different, and the pictures illustrate well the drastic differences (think acrobats contorting themselves, massage techniques that leave crazy impressions on backs), I fear the “us versus them” mentality, and hope that parents and teachers can guide kids into appreciating differences, not just gawking at them.
Overall, this is a great book to own and to give. Lonely Planet was smart to branch out, though their guidebooks will always be the best of what they do. If you are considering this book as a gift, I recommend throwing in a good map and a novel or two on Asian heritage.
And if you need someone to guide you through China, my hand is raised to volunteer!
Not For Parents: China: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know
By Lonely Planet
Price: Available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books a Million! for approximately $11, set of four for $29.
|Easy to Read||5|
|Quality of Illustrations
|Appealed to Both Boys and Girls||5|
|Kept My Child(ren)’s interest||5|
|I Would Purchase This For My Family||yes|
|I would Purchase This As A Gift||yes
| Overall Rating
All ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being highest.
Meet the Reviewer!
Kate Schwarz is a full-time mom
and wife living in Great Falls, VA.
In addition to reading to her three
small hildren, Kate runs marathons,
Crossfits, and blogs about raising
kids with books at