Monday, November 21, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Arcadia Kids city/state guides by Kate Boehm Jerome

 This series is a nice mixture of local history and tourist destinations kids will find fun as well as educational. I even learned a few things about my own hometown, Austin!

Each book starts out with a spotlight on the city, including population, sports teams, and one interesting fact about the city. More fun numbers follow, then an overview of the city through the senses; sound, smell, sight, and more. Other sections include Strange but True, Marvelous Monikers (interesting names and the places they represent), past historical events. The second half of the book is an exploration of the whole state by geographical features, then by historical events, and finally through the people, environment, and local features like celebrations and jobs. The book ends with more facts and photographs and further resources.

This won't be useful for parents looking for a travel guide to a specific city, but it's great for a family planning to visit a city in a new state and wanting an overview. It's easy to pick out interesting destinations from the facts and stories offered throughout the books as well. The set I was given to review included:

Austin:  I completely missed the renaming of Town Lake; it's now Lady Bird Lake, but everybody I know still calls it Town Lake, so it's doesn't really seem to have "taken." The other facts and highlights are accurate, although I wouldn't have highlighted Keep Austin Weird Fest instead of Austin City Limits or SXSW. The book does a good job of including a little bit of everything about a state with a lot of variety.

Philadelphia: I don't know that I would have included coal mining in the "Creating Jobs" section. Right after the protecting the environment section and right before local celebrations. Of course, not living in PA, all I see are the news stories about the coal industries effect on the environment, school propaganda, and coal miners trapped and dying. Is PA really a huge agriculture state? I've just been reading some statistics on the history of agriculture in the United States and it doesn't seem like enough people are actually still employed on farms to merit it being included as a major part of workforce economy.

I also looked at Boston and Richmond. All of the titles claim that people of the state love to be outdoors...well, I guess it could be true. They also each have a note in the jobs section "Pennsylvanians have a great respect for all the brave men and women who serve our country." Or Texans, or whatever...Reading a large stack of series nonfiction simultaneously may be a bad idea, huh? By about the third book it all kind of sounds the same.

Verdict: If you want an affordable series that combines state and tourist information, this would be a perfectly acceptable choice. It doesn't offer enough information to replace your State books, if you have a lot of school assignments calling for them, and they aren't designed to be travel guides (but there aren't many travel guides for kids, except for the Kidding Around series anyways). If there's not much call for these subjects, I'd recommend this series to efficiently do the job of two expensive nonfiction series. A bit repetitive, but what nonfiction series isn't?

ISBN: 9781439600887; Published May 2011 by Arcadia; Review copies provided by the publisher through Raab Associates.

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