The Firefly Visual Dictionary

Reviewed: October 1, 2002
By: Jean-Claude Corbeil and Ariane Archambault
Publisher: Firefly Books
960 pages, $75.00

If one picture is indeed worth a thousand words, there must be 6,000.000 words worth of information in this mammoth reference book. The Firefly Visual Dictionary actually shows you 35,000 terms, matched to the 6,000 full colour illustrations on its 960 pages.

It seems that just about everything about this book needs to be discussed in terms of superlatives. It is, for instance 22 centimetres wide by 28 high and about 7.5 thick. It weighs in at close to four kilograms. While it may be something that a person might browse, it is not light reading.

In fact, it’s not actually reading at all. The book is organized around 17 categories of things in the real world (it does deal primarily with nouns, which leaves out whole classes of words) and it groups things for efficiency. There is an alphabetical index in the back, but for the most part you wouldn’t need it.

If you knew you were interested in buildings, for instance, there are basically three sections of the book where you might look for pictures. The section on houses runs through everything from construction to furniture in just over 30 pages. There is also a section on architecture, as well as one on society, which includes all sorts of public and business buildings.

Solid and cut-away illustrations show you the ins and outs of everything from the sun to the human body.

A one-page spread shows you every sort of hand-held writing tool while the next page shows you all the essential features of a newspaper.

A large 150+ page section on sports shows the playing areas, equipment, and basic moves of many popular events.

There’s a lot in this book for youngsters, though they might have a bit of a tussle actually picking the thing up. I suspect that this is a book which, given the price tag and size, will find its place in a lot of classrooms and libraries. It will certainly be a worthwhile addition to their shelves.]