Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Scrambled States of America

The Scrambled States of America, written and illustrated by Laurie Keller, is exactly what the book's narrator (Uncle Sam) promises--a story about the United States that you probably haven't heard before. The tale begins as all fifty States are waking up, beginning their morning routine, and enjoying the lovely sunrise.

The only grumbler is Kansas, who is unhappy and determined to spread the mood. "I just feel bored. All day long we just sit here in the middle of the country. We never GO anywhere. We never DO anything, and we NEVER meet any NEW states!" he complains to his best friend, Nebraska. As Kansas continues his whiny diatribe, Nebraska joins him in airing feelings of discontent. Misery, as everybody knows, loves company, and before long both states are convinced that they are tired of being stuck in the same spot, seeing the same sights, and hearing the same sounds, day after long, boring day.

Kansas formulates a plan to break the monotony--they should throw a party and invite all of the other states! "You know, one of those get-to-know-you deals," a newly enthused Kansas explains. During the mixing and mingling at the big event, a hairbrained idea is born that leads to the "scrambling" of America, and that's where things really get crazy.

Laurie Keller has a flair for comedic storytelling, which is only enhanced by her humorous collage-style illustrations. The states' varied colors and expressions are funny enough, but the book is full of action in the details, too. Looking closely you'll notice Iowa struggling to spell 'Connecticut' on a party invitation, a quiet romance blossom between Nevada and Mississippi, state-specific dishes at the party buffet such as New York Cheesecake and Georgia Peach pie, and a flurry of other funny mini-stories in the margins of each page.

The Scrambled States of America
would make a good read anywhere, and the perfect compliment to an otherwise boring United States geography lesson in a classroom setting. Definitely a keeper.

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