Children's Book Publishing in the New Millennium: Compassionate Capitalism

A monthly spotlight on Children's Book Publishers who enrich their readers, their communities, and our World. This month: Crabtree Publishing - Teaching Appreciation of All Peoples
Three cheers for Crabtree Publishers, our socially responsible children's book publisher of the month, and its series entitled "Lands, Peoples, and Cultures." These curriculum-based books aimed at the third and fourth-grade reading levels, and up through adult interest levels, promote understanding of the cultures of the world and honor their diversity. There's no better place to begin teaching tolerance and acceptance of all peoples than with children, and Crabtree's books read like entertaining armchair travel guides.

Bobbie Kalman, founder of Crabtree Publishing Company, a publisher of children's non-fiction books since 1978, is the author and publisher of more than one hundred and fifty children's books. She has created many of Crabtree's series including one about the early pioneers, called Early Settler Life. Crabtree also produces series on animals called "Science of Living Things", the immigration journeys of our ancestors called "We Came To North America", and Crabapple's "starter" books.

Kalman, who works with a team of creative writers who research each topic, holds degrees in English, Psychology and Education. She has taught at both the elementary and secondary level, and has worked as an educational consultant with several publishing companies.

This article highlights and applauds Crabtree's "Lands, Peoples and Cultures" series which provides up-to-date coverage, and intimate portraits of the countries it features - France, Russia, Egypt, South Africa, Israel, Greece, Vietnam, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Peru, China, India, Tibet. Three books per country, replete with full color photography, ensures thorough coverage of the important aspects of each country. Covering more than basic history and geography, children will learn about the land, people and cultures of fourteen countries from intriguing photographs, stories, recipes, and activities that give young readers insight into each country.

I was taken with the books on France, written by Greg Nickles, since I'll be touring that part of the world this summer. Here's a whirlwind tour of Crabtree's 3-book approach, using France as the example.

The first book features the land. I'm introduced to France's wonders through striking photographs of waves crashing against the north Atlantic coast creating natural arches in limestone cliffs, of a chateau built on top an ancient fortress, and of narrow cobblestone streets no car can fit through.

I'm awestruck at the country's physical characteristics as I tour France's flat meadowlands, rocky shores in the north, rugged hills in the center, majestic mountains and endless beaches in the south, and the island of Corsica in the Mediterranean sea.

Many rivers in France have carved broad fertile river valleys, and I marvel at fields of lavender stretching as far as the eye can see and farmers using pitchforks to load cabbages into a wagon.

France's transportation system hurls passengers into the twenty-first century with the world's fastest passenger trains called trains a grande vitesses, or TGVs for short. These high-speed trains go 186 miles per hour, connecting fifty French cities and neighboring countries. I wonder about one of the greatest engineering marvels of the world, the Channel Tunnel also known as the Chunnel. This tunnel was made by machines that drilled through solid rock far beneath the English Channel's seabed. The tunnel, lined with concrete, runs 30 miles from Calais, France to Folkestone, England.

I see quiet country towns, fishing villages, and a nature reserve called the Camargue, located in Provence. It's the only place in Europe where flamingoes live. I tour elegant cities with phenomenal monuments such as the Eiffel Tower, designed by a French engineer in 1889. I imagine what it would be like climbing the 1652 steps and looking out over the city of Paris.

Now that I'm thoroughly mesmerized by the beauty and unique characteristics of the land of France, I enter the second book about the people. I learn about the French people who are known for their joie de vivre, or love of life. Modern French are descendents from ancient Celts, Romans, Franks, and Normans. Each group settled in different parts of France and developed its own customs, traditions and languages.

I learn what it's like to live in Paris in cylinder-shaped apartment buildings, or in the relaxed pace and peacefulness of la douceur de vivre, the country life, the good life.

I get a quick peak at France's history and the daily life of French people. Candid photos reveal what family life is like, how children are educated, how they spend their leisure time. I even learn how to play the popular ball game petanque.

The arts of fine French food and fine French wines are covered and I'm salivating. It's time to switch to the third book about French culture.

In France, the Culture, I am introduced to religions and worship in France, French festivals and ancient processions, fashion, art, architecture, theater, music, scientists and inventors, language, literature and folklore.

The remarkable Crabtree series of "Lands, Peoples and Cultures", covering fourteen countries, is a luscious vehicle for young and old alike to understand and appreciate the world's similarities and differences.