By: Alison Behnke
Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books
Publication Date: August 2010
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: December 2010
France was once a monarchy, but by the end of the French Revolution a republic had been born. The French Republic, as it officially is known, is not a large country and only “covers an area of 211,209 square miles.” If you glance at the simple map provided in this book you can see that “most of France’s borders run along natural barriers formed by mountains or water.” The most striking topographical features are its high mountainous borders, the French Alps and the Pyrénées. In addition to learning about the mountains, you’ll get a glimpse at the rivers, you’ll learn about the amazing “human-made” canals linking them together, you’ll learn about the climate, the flora and fauna, its limited natural resources, environmental challenges, and you’ll briefly visit its major cities.
Historically speaking, “humans have inhabited the area that makes up modern France for nearly ten thousand years.” In 800 B.C. the Celts swept into the area and were the predominant population until they “made contact with people from Greece and Rome,” whose military forces would eventually defeat them in 52 B.C. This book then proceeds to give a very concise overview of dominant historical figures, dynasties, political factions, and governments from Attila the Hun to modern-day president Nicolas Sarkozy, who oversees the well being of “62.6 million people.” Ethnically, the French are descended from a mix of European people, but now are beginning to see immigrant people from southern Europe and Africa. You’ll learn about their healthcare system, education, the origin of their language, where the people live, and the role of women in French society.
Roman Catholicism is the main religion of the country, but one interesting fact that few realize is that Islam is its second largest religion. Religious holidays and festivals are discussed as is the fact that “religion has been an issue of tension and debate in modern France.” A swing through its literary heritage begins with its “earliest poets” who were “wandering minstrels” to such contemporary writers as Gao Xingjian. Its rich legacy of art and architecture started during the Renaissance and exploded in the late 1800s making Paris “an international center of painting.” Naturally when we think “architecture” we visualize the Eiffel Tower, but there are also buildings of note such as the Arab World Institute in Paris. You’ll also get to take a look at music, the performing arts, film, foods (including a recipe for chocolate mousse), sports, leisure activities, the economy, and you’ll learn many other interesting facets of this country.
This book can stand alone, but once the information is on the publisher's website there will be additional links to the land, the people, cultural life, teacher resources, and links to things such as video clips. There will be photographs, maps, and a flag that can be downloaded for reports. There are instructions on how to print images, how to create an outline for a report, report writing tips, and instructions on how to write a bibliography. The site can be accessed by any student who needs a “homework helper.” I was quite impressed with this book and can certainly see it as a stepping stone to a school report in the homeschool or classroom setting. There are numerous photographs, art reproductions, a map, and informative sidebars throughout the text. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, a timeline, currency fast facts, portraits of famous people, a listing of interesting places to visit, a select bibliography, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore.
Quill says: This is an excellent, clear and concise overview of the Republic of France.