The story behind the Philip's Early Years Atlas by David Wright
1 An Atlas for 3-4-5 year olds, but why?
There is this fantastic phrase in the Early Years Curriculum: “Develop Knowledge and Understanding of the world”. And I thought “Brilliant! Let’s go for it!”
2 But 3-4-5s are still into ‘lift the flap’ books, aren’t they?
Yes, but most of them LOVE to find out about the real world too. A real volcano is even more exciting than a pretend volcano! They like to “get real”. ‘Lift the flaps’ quickly get damaged and cost a lot of money. And you get far fewer pages when you use card.
49 big pages for £6.99 seems a better deal to me!
3 But how can you introduce the big wide world to little children?
We jump in a hot-air balloon, and float to somewhere exciting, then we jump out and explore an evocative picture of a volcano, or a coral reef, a big city, or 100 other places.
4 How do the maps fit in?
Each balloon has its own colour, and a balloon of the SAME colour is on the map. So we can spot where it lands. We’ll get the idea that blue on the maps is sea, green is lowland, and, little by little, we’ll make more sense of our planet, and start to understand maps.
5 How do you choose what to include?
We have to miss out thousands of exciting places. Some of our choices are “must haves” we can’t miss out, such as London and Paris. But we also have unexpected elements that grown-ups don’t know about. One of my favourites is a porcupine in Kazakhstan!
6 How did you get involved with this project?
I am co-author, with Jill[my wife] of ‘Philip’s Children’s Atlas’ for 7 to 11 year olds. This book has sold over a million copies worldwide. We felt that younger children deserved their own atlases, and suggested two, one for 5-7s and one for 3-5s.
7 Any crises while writing them both?
Yes, plenty! No sooner had I signed the contract than cancer re-appeared, with 3 major operations and chemotherapy. We decided we’d better cancel the contract. But then our daughter said “Don’t cancel, I’ll help”. I decided I really needed a big project to take my mind off cancer. Some of it was written during my 7 hospital stays!
8 Father/daughter, not an easy partnership?
Rachel became co-author and organiser, and the partnership worked surprisingly well. I know lots about geography and authorship, but my illness meant I had little day-to-day contact with young children. Rachel has an up-to-date degree from the Open University, and works as a Teaching Assistant with young children. I’m sure I was difficult to work with at times, but cancer means everyone is nice to me!
9 Will the Atlas be popular?
We’ll see! It‘s already advertised on websites - Norway, Canada, and Japan as well as the UK! It’s not perfect, nothing in this world is, but I hope a lot of children will enjoy exploring the world though the pictures, maps and text of our Atlas.