On the first page, there is an announcement, in a dialogue balloon, from Fran, the youngest member of the Farley family: "May I have your attention, please?" Yes, Fran? Oh, she wants us to read the sign she is holding. It says, "WARNING: Many of the facts in this book are wacky and outrageous. Fasten your seatbelts." And away we go with the peripatetic Farleys on a "fun fact-filled journey from Maine to Hawaii as they discover our weird and wondrous United States of America." The Table of Contents is unique—a map of the U.S. with the route laid out in a white dashed line, and each state numbered in the order of the family's visit, starting with Maine, on page 8. Interspersed with some very strange facts about each of the 50 states, like "Did you know that more toothpicks are produced in Maine than any other state—around a million a day!" A guy standing next to a felled tree and picking his teeth remarks, "You'll need them after eating all that lobster." the retro style computer generated artwork of the family enjoying the sights fills the pages with color and laughs. There's a map of Maine with its capital marked, and six illustrated facts on just the one page. On the final nine pages of the book, there's a listing of state statistics, including the date and order of statehood, square miles, state bird, flower, tree, motto, and nickname.
The education experts are always worried about our kids’ lack of geographical knowledge. Between this book, Laurie Keller’s The Scrambled States of America, and Hudson Talbott’s United Tweets of America, readers will pick up an awful lot of fun facts and get the urge to explore, too. Map reading is a skill that is being lost, thanks to cars with global positioning devices, but poring over maps and globes is a fine way to travel vicariously and encourage curiosity about the world.
Reviewed by JF.
Scholastic Press, 2008
Suggested Ages: 6-9