A journey through our world
18th Oct 20

A journey through our world

Come on a journey from the beginning of time to the present day in the new Britannica All New Children's Encyclopedia! Editor Christopher Lloyd tells us more!

Q: What inspired you to create a children's encyclopedia?

A: Well, the world of children's non-fiction is thriving and I'm not surprised being an advocate myself of the fact the real world is far more amazing than anything you can make up. Britannica is world-famous for its encyclopaedia, which was first launched 250 years ago in Scotland. But there hasn't been any children's edition published since 1984.

Today, of course, children will turn to the online world if they want to look up something in a way that previous generations used the A-Z format of a printed encyclopaedia. But how do they know they can trust the information they find? And is that information written in a style that's appropriate? And what about all the other distractions in the online world from advertising to social media?

For all these reasons, a printed children's encyclopaedia makes a huge deal of sense even today. However, we have nudged the concept of an encyclopedia which we hope makes it even more relevant and appropriate for the 21st-century.

Q: How different is it from old encyclopedias?

A: For a start, the structure is not designed as an A-Z look-up - instead it takes readers on a journey from the beginning of time to the present day through eight chapters; Universe, Earth, Matter and Life deal with natural history and the second four chapters: Humans, Ancient Times, Modern Times and Today's World and Tomorrow deal with human history.

Q: What do you feel sets it apart from other children's encyclopedias?

A: There are two things that really stand out with this new Britannica children's encyclopaedia.

The first is that there are experts behind every page. One of the big advantages of working with Britannica is that they are in touch with a universe of experts all over the world in different universities and institutions, everything from astrophysics to zoology.

We have been able to engage with this network and incorporate these experts throughout the encyclopaedia, not just to help write and fact check the content, but we also profile them so children can see the real people who are dedicating their lives to finding out the truth about the world we live in.

Secondly, we have subtitled the encyclopaedia what we know and what we don't for the simple reason that many of the most amazing issues in the world today are things that nobody really knows what the answers are!

Q: What do you say to all those who say, "But I can Google it"?

A: Well I hope you can see from the answers above there's a whole lot more this encyclopedia offers than just what you can find out by googling something!

Q: How do you go about deciding what to include, what to leave out?

A: It's designed for people who want an introduction to almost any subject you can imagine but, if they want more to find out more details, then they can refer to the experts that are profiled or they can go online or they can go to a library to find out more.

Q: Can you give us your top three discoveries / facts in the book?

A: Actually, my favourite fact is a picture and it's on page 72 and 73 in the chapter about the Earth. This picture is taken inside a cave in Mexico and shows what is thought to be the world's biggest naturally forming crystals made from sulphide chemicals.

These giant crystals are so big that the people who are pictured inside the caves look like insects crawling up the edges of a giant tree! I had never realised crystals could grow so enormous and to see them in context with the height of a human in this picture is just so fantastic!

Some of my other favourites are in a feature called FACTastic which occurs throughout the book. On page 353 we learn that it would take 200 years for the average US worker to earn enough to become a billionaire or, to look at it another way, many of the super-rich earn the average yearly salary of 50,000 dollars (which is £40,000) in less than a minute!

Q: How would you like children to use the book?

A: I hope it will be a companion. I hope that there will be a voice that carries through with the introductions that I've written for each chapter that helps them make sense of the world and, in so doing, helps them understand who they are and how they fit in.

Most of all, that natural curiosity that we are born with and which is our most valuable possession will, I hope, be nurtured and amplified through this celebration of reality.

Q: Will you be creating more children's books or encyclopedias with Britannica?

A: Absolutely! We've got an ambitious program of titles many of them will be developing themes that we've introduced in the encyclopaedia. One of them called Listified celebrates the non-fiction world in amazing lists of all kinds of things from dinosaurs to space missions, detailing all sorts of incredible feats of human achievement.

Another is called FACTopia which is a land of interconnected facts where connections are surprising, weird and wonderful in ways you wouldn't expect.

Q: When you do find time to relax, how do you like to spend it?

A: Well I was very lucky this summer to be able to sneak off to Switzerland where we always try to go for our family holidays and to spend time in the mountains walking with the dogs. I find being a tiny speck in a giant landscape hugely refreshing and it helps my mental well-being and really invigorates me for the next few months ahead.

We spend so much of our time being a giant head in front of small screens and so flipping this round and seeing the big picture with the incredible majesty of nature all around animates my soul. As long as I can get some of that, that's all I need!

reading zone homepage
Young Adult SchoolZone FamilyZone Library zone
ReadingZone Book Shop