May. 7th, 2009

kjpepper: (brat)
Back in the day I used to spend hours tucked into one corner or another of the library reading the World Book. I shit you not. I pretty much did the same damn thing I do on Wikipedia - I'd start out by looking up something for real, and then I'd be stuck there, following all of the "SEE ALSO" references. (This often meant getting up, reshelving whatever gargantuan volume I had, and getting another one. Considering the size of the M and S volumes, this counted as a workout for a seven year old.) There was also much goggling at all the pretty pictures. That's why World Book rules and Britannica drools: Pictures. LOTS OF THEM.

My obsession began pretty young, as my parents have a complete 1963 edition in the house. I used to read articles from that, then come to school and read the same articles, marveling at how much more information there was twenty five years later. (Not to mention color.) But even before I went to school and discovered the "bigger better prettier World Book than we have, Mom!" I'd just spend rainy Saturday afternoons with the edition we had. Especially the atlas. The atlas was three quarters of my own height at one point and was so bleeding heavy that I'd often have to ask mom to get it down for me. It also contained countries that didn't exist in our atlas in school. My dad's country was still called British Guiana. There was only one Korea. Thailand, depending on what map you were using, was still occasionally called Siam. Vietnam was two words, and the capital was Saigon. There were waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many Congos in Africa, like the various Imperialists couldn't be bothered to differentiate between the individual countries, or were all like "okay, this bit in the middle is CONGO. We'll break it up later." Other regions still had names out of one of those painful bodice ripper novels, like Zanzibar, Rhodesia, and Tangayika. Europe hadn't changed much from when I was a kid, though when I hit middle school its geography changed drastically enough to make the final round of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? exponentially harder.

The thing that nailed World Book's superior awesomeness, though, was a 13 volume supplement package called Childcraft. Think everything that made Zoobooks, visual dictionaries and any compilation of international fairy/folk tales cool, and make it cooler. That series is why I know how to knit, when and why the hot dog was invented, and how to make a paper airplane that flies in loops rather than straight.

I probably wouldn't drop a stack on an encyclopedia nowadays - no matter how cool World Book is, it probably doesn't include entire articles discussing The Beatles' discography - but if I had the money, I'd probably buy Childcraft. And okay, probably the atlas too. There really is something about having an atlas big enough to lay on...

Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!

July 2009


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