cover image The Random House Encyclopedia

The Random House Encyclopedia

Tony Geiss, Dorling Kindersley Ltd. Random House Books for Young Readers, $60 (644pp) ISBN 978-0-394-83852-6

Each of its 600-plus pages packed with information on an exhaustive spectrum of topics, this copiously illustrated volume is a worthy addition to--and a wise investment for--any family library. The bulk of the encyclopedia, produced in collaboration with Dorling Kindersley, is taken up with the main entries, which range from one to six pages in length. Subjects covered here include the expected (such as Asia, explorers, medicine, oceans and seas, Renaissance, slavery, Wild West) as well as the more obscure (that include animal senses, deep-sea wildlife, conquistadors, flight in animals, outlaws). Among the book's valuable features is an alphabetical ``running index,'' located at the top of each page, which tells youngsters where they will find information on secondary topics not included among the main entries (carnivores, NATO and rock music, to name a few). Also useful is the Fact Finder section, a concise roundup of statistics, milestones and key dates in the areas of science, geography, history and nature. Here readers will learn such tidbits as the lifespan of the queen ant (15 years) and the location of the windiest place on earth (Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica). Busy without being confusing, each page of this volume offers an exemplary balance of text and illustrations, which include clearly reproduced photos, detailed drawings and painstakingly rendered maps and charts. Wherever necessary, parenthetical explanations of potentially difficult words are included, making the text accessible to children at several reading levels. Combining comprehensive explanations and succinct data, this encyclopedia offers youngsters the chance to browse for hours, or find the answer to a specific question in seconds. That's a great deal for one book to deliver. Ages 7-12. (Sept.)