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Imogen Russell Williams reads children's books like it's going out of style, then writes about them for The Guardian, The Metro and the TLS. The Big Book of the UK is the first book she's written herself. (Looking up rude place names was her favourite.)
This accessible and lively journey through the UK combines a geographical tour of our islands with social and historical themes such as music, transport, food, clothes, sport and how, for example, UK time has defined global time zones since the definition of the Greenwich Meridian. Written and collected by children’s book critic Imogen Russell- Williams, it is not surprising to find a spread on Bookish Britain and a field guide to magical creatures, but equally entertaining are spreads on the famous British sweet tooth and the confectionery industry or conversely on Keeping Fit and Healthy: where we learn that The Isles of Scilly are the most sporty and active place in the UK! One cannot help but wonder if a subliminal Brexit message is intended about the geographical tour beginning in Northern Ireland, but it is certainly refreshing not to have London front and centre and for all the home nation capitals to get their own double page spread and equality of coverage. The selection of facts about each place or theme is inspired, diverse and non-jingoistic; defining the British Empire, for example as ‘also responsible for the rise of slavery and the loss of resources, identity and language for other countries.’ The varied page layout is a particular strength combining colourful images and clear textboxes and labels. There is an enjoyable quiz on “How Well do you know the UK?” at the end of the book, but I really cannot understand why there is not at the very least a Contents page to guide young researchers to an area of interest. Nevertheless, this is an attractive and fascinating book which will, I guarantee, with every page turn present the reader with something they did not know or had not heard of.