For short attention spans, a flashy gathering of photographs, graphic images, and assorted facts about various high-interest topics.
The subtitular claim to universality aims decidedly high as, in six broadly thematic chapters, Green offers what amounts to an arbitrary selection of short lists: highest mountains, biggest volcanoes, animals who have gone into space, the main components (with percentages) of the human body. Alongside the lists are graphically organized information on: bovine digestion, meerkats, Usain Bolt, how whistles are manufactured, computerese from “bit” to “yottabyte,” and like gallimaufry. All of these are embedded in such a broad range of graphic presentations (squared-off galleries, sinuous lines of time or distance, charts with infographic elements, arrangements of photos or silhouettes, maps, cutaway views, diagrams with directional arrows, and more) that the actual content seems almost incidental. (Instances of text printed white-on-yellow or some other semilegible combination do nothing to counter this notion.) Readers who actually want to know what makes Annapurna I “the world’s deadliest mountain” or what, if anything, the entire page of alternating tiny pink and blue human figures represents can go beg, and the author provides neither sources nor resources. Casual browsers will find this a rich source of easy wows, though.
Just the ticket for readers addicted to quick, rapidly fading hits of information. (glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 8-13)