I was lucky enough to be the daughter of a soldier, so I grew up moving every two to three years. My parents were intent on getting to know each place we lived, so we treated each of our homes like an extended vacation, having the mindset of a tourist who wants to get to know as much as possible about a place. (This was more fun on Oahu, Hawaii, than in Leavenworth, Kansas!) I hope for all little and big Americans that they learn as much as possible about our own country. It really is a cool place!
The Lonely Planet, which produces the very best travel guidebooks, has now created a series of books telling kids of the “inside story” of places. This Not For Parents: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know series includes four countries (Australia, Great Britain, China, and the U.S.A.) and four cities (London, New York, Paris, Rome). They are available in a set or individually. They are best suited for middle school and high school aged kids.
The U.S.A. book is my favorite, of course. It was a trip through the past for me and refreshed my dusty memory of many neat facts and even neater places. By middle school kids should have a basic history of the U.S.; that groundwork helps in this slightly scattered but informative book.
This book, like the others, does a lot really well:
• It is engaging. The photographs pull the reader in quickly; even my four year old enjoyed paging through the book, and asked “What’s that?!” at nearly every page. Kids will love the short chapter on “accidents” that turned out really well—like the accidental inventions of soda pop, gum and popsicles.
• It is digestible. For better or for worse, this is not a history book with pages of paragraphs providing in-depth information. Each “chapter” is just a double-page spread with 5-12 pictures on it. Some examples: football, Presidential pets, saying “I do” in Vegas and the Pony Express.
• It teaches the culture. Lonely Planet guidebooks excel at their ability to show who the people are, what belief systems they have and how the country has evolved. Exploring culture is the best part of traveling, I think. The chapter on the history of Ellis Island is my favorite example.
• It points to where you can get more information. I am a self-professed nerd, and always want more information when I’m immersing myself into something or some place. At the end of each chapter is a website for more details about that subject.
Does this book hold interesting factoids or useless facts? Hmm. This book is filled with sound-bite bits of history, like: Did you know Mount Rushmore was supposed to include the Presidents’ chests? But they ran out of money. I guarantee that useless fact will stick in my head, keeping something more useful (for example, how often I should get my oil changed) out of my brain. Maybe the Mount Rushmore example is in the useless fact category, but the pages on Old Glory–where it comes from, how to fold it–are definitely things each American should know.
Overall, this is a great book to own and to give. It makes me want to take a yearlong road trip to reacquaint myself with this great country of ours.
Not For Parents: U.S.A.: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know
By Lonely Planet
Price: Available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Books a Million! for approximately $16, set of four for $29.
|Easy to Read||5|
|Quality of Illustrations
|Appealed to Both Boys and Girls||5|
|Kept My Child(ren)’s interest||5|
|I Would Purchase This For My Family||yes|
|I would Purchase This As A Gift||yes
| Overall Rating
All ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being highest.
Meet the Reviewer!
Kate Schwarz is a full-time mom
and wife living in Great Falls, VA.
In addition to reading to her three
small hildren, Kate runs marathons,
Crossfits, and blogs about raising
kids with books at