For armchair travelers, quick flits through the countries of the world (plus a few extras), with keepsake snippets of facts, foods, or festivals for each.
After rightly acknowledging at the outset that the notion of country is a fuzzy one, Fullman proceeds on by continent to alight in 199 of them, adding Antarctica and a roundup of territories at the end. Steering clear of almanac-style barrages of descriptions and statistics, he supplies just a flag and location map for each half- to two-page entry, five “key” facts, and a handful of observations. Most of the last focus on distinctive celebrations, street food, wildlife, or natural wonders, but the author isn’t shy about referring to recent civil wars and ongoing political tensions either. If a stop in “Israel and the Palestinian Territories” or his failure to mention that Vietnam was once two countries rub some older readers the wrong way, younger ones will more likely zero in on how people in Caracas roller-skate to church during the Christmas season; that Bolivia has 37 official languages (while the U.S. has none); or, in contrast to Belgium’s “drool-worthy” cuisine, hákarl (fermented shark served in Iceland) “has a very powerful ammonia-like taste (apparently).” Overall the content is remarkably reliable. Underscoring frequent nods to the racial and ethnic diversity of populations in many locales, the small human figures that Blake scatters among her stylized vignettes are mostly dark-skinned.
Long for a sustained read-through but rich in tantalizing tidbits for young globe-trotters.(index, glossary) (Nonfiction. 7-9)