Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Non-Fiction
Knowledge Encyclopedia

Knowledge Encyclopedia

Spring 2014 Non-Fiction
Ages: 9 - 15 yrs.
Publisher: DK Publishing
ISBN: 978-1465414175
Hardcover Price: $29.99

If the idea behind this book isn't a cautionary tale of biting off more than you can chew, we don't know what is.

Yes, DK is the British multinational publisher that is well-known (and increasingly well-regarded) for pulling off the impossible in presenting encyclopedic "knowledge" books about larger subjects that are designed to appeal to the modern info seeker of all ages—and especially to younger ones.

But DK's goal here is to present "the whole of human knowledge" in 360 lovely, fully illustrated, text-tight, glossy pages. You got to love these guys.

Needless-to-say, the editors at DK came up short. Of course they did. How could they not? But once you set aside the impossible dream and page through this mesmerizing compendium of knowledge, that doesn't matter. What you'll find here is page after page of graphically compelling, compact explanations of things you'll never see coming from among the whole of human knowledge—and done in partnership with the Smithsonian!

Divided into categories of Space, Earth, Nature, Human Body, Science and History, it's fair to say this weight-heavy reference tilts toward science in baring the essence of human knowledge. But that's not a bad tilt. And the volume of information covered, even if it is by design superficially covered, is extraordinary. Fact after fact after fact fills these pages and most facts here are attached to a colorful, relevant, explanatory illustration or image that attests to the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. In this digital age, maybe more.

What you'll find in this tip-of-the-iceberg encyclopedia is everything from the architecture of termite cities and the speed force of a golf club hitting a golf ball to the science of ancient Egyptians making a mummy and a brief explanation of the Arab Spring in this decade.

When taking on a challenge this big, the door is open to complaints and quibbles. But the end product in this case is impressive, despite what didn't make the cut. For what this book is, it's remarkable.

Don Oldenburg   ©2014 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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