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.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Little Pea

There are a couple of funny books I've wanted to mention for a while, but haven't found the time to write up. I'm going to try to get to them today, starting with:

Little Pea, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Jen Corace

This is a humorous take on a child's reluctance to eat what is on their dinner plate. In the case of Little Pea, his repulsion lies with the Pea family's main staple: candy. Unfortunately, he has no choice but to eat a certain number of bites each night at dinner if he wants dessert. Dessert, as it turns out, is part of what makes this little tale so amusing. My son found the whole thing pretty hilarious, particularly when Little Pea is choking down each bite with exaggerated facial expressions and noises of disgust. After all, what kid can't relate to being unjustly forced to eat some appalingly good-for-you food at the dinner table? The illustrations are simplistic, charming, and full of expression. Jen Corace did well in bringing a pea to life believably.

Overall, a very enjoyable read.