Sounding like a corny uncle knee-slapping his way through a civics textbook, or perhaps a high-school history teacher certain that name-dropping rock bands will make him seem hip, this full-color guidebook aims for edutainment but falls far short.
Despite the implication of the title, the subject matter is not comprehensive, instead covering a hodgepodge of topics from the Electoral College to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the Salem Witch Trials. In an attempt to enliven dry, disjointed infodumps, the authors crack constant, unfunny verbal and visual jokes that range from painfully dated (the chapter on dynasties in U.S. business and politics devotes most of a page to an aside about the TV show Dynasty, complete with a photograph of the cast) to downright tasteless (“Mexico sends us hardworking laborers, petroleum...and the irresistible two taco/one enchilada combo plate”). Visual content also serves as a gag (a picture of an Afghan hound in the War on Terror section is captioned “Afghans are known for their distrust of outsiders and lustrous coats”). The brief conclusion takes a more serious turn by suggesting steps toward activism and pointing readers toward organizations working on a variety of issues.
There are a few nuggets of helpful information here, but readers will be too busy groaning to find them. (Nonfiction. 12 & up)