Flags elicit complex emotions, and so will this celebration of flags around the globe.
Flags are often records of conquest or colonization. Many of them feature the Union Jack, as a reminder that the British Empire once ruled almost a quarter of the world. It’s a poignant detail, and it’s also led to flags that look as if they were designed by a committee. The Union Jack, for example, throws together symbols from England, Scotland, and Ireland. Some readers may find themselves longing for the flag of Brunei, which, for generations, was a plain yellow rectangle. Fresson doesn’t judge. The book has been laid out so skillfully that even the busiest flag looks beautiful. In a few cases, the images in the background mirror the colors of the flags; the Greek flag is in front of a pale blue seascape, for instance. There’s a surprising amount of drama in the book. Afghanistan, he notes, has gone through so many upheavals that its flag has changed 21 times. There’s even a bit of humor, or at least whimsy. Tiny figures dressed in primary colors (with brown skin) manually assemble the different icons that make up each flag. They look like little cheerleaders or superheroes, though he calls them the Vexillologists. The book does not try for comprehensiveness and avoids current controversy (the flag of Tibet is not on display, for instance); its organization by design rather than geography makes it ideal for browsing.
Readers who know the definition of “vexillologist” may be the target audience, but even people with no interest in geography might find themselves entertained and even a little tearful. (Nonfiction. 6-12)