Gr 3-5-These titles are written in a more conversational tone, with larger print and less text, than the popular "America the Beautiful" books or "From Sea to Shining Sea" series (both Children's Press). The books are colorful and eye-catching, with captioned photos, easy-to-read charts, maps, and boxes containing "Fun Facts" and "Famous People." Although readers will find the asides interesting, the abundance of extra information on each page occasionally interrupts the flow of the text. One shortfall is that all four books cite Hispanics as a distinct group and a distinct percentage of the state's residents, but they do not appear as such on the population pie chart. Purchase where additional materials are needed for this audience.-Melinda Piehler, Sawgrass Elementary School, Sunrise, FL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
- Barbara L. Talcroft
This title is part of the "America the Beautiful, The Third Series"—and beautiful it is in this super collection from Scholastic. Compared with the competition, these books are longer, more comprehensive in content, more reader-friendly, and offer eye-catching illustrations, maps, and appealing extra features. California, our third largest state, has mighty mountains, a long Pacific coast, and a huge fertile valley at its center, where half of the nation's fruit, vegetables, and nuts are grown. Several chapters focus on two historic events that shaped California's future, one is the building of Spanish missions—color photos show San Luis Rey and San Diego de Alcala—though Orr presents the missions in a strictly negative light. Through prints and period photos, readers learn about the Gold Rush in 1849. This was when the population exploded, allowing California, already wrested from Mexico, to become a state by 1850. After the Civil War, transcontinental railroads brought eager tourists and new settlers. California today has a multicultural population with no ethnic majority, offering its residents an abundance of state and national parks, rocky coasts, successful sports teams like the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Lakers, and a lively arts scene. (Oddly, its two world-class orchestras, the San Francisco Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic with its energetic young conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, are not mentioned.) Report-writers will love the fresh California menu with a recipe for avocado pizza. Especially helpful are extra features: a history timeline, mini-bios of Californians like writer Gary Soto and jeans-maker Levi Strauss, a Travel Guide including destinations from all sections of the state (ex. the Yo-Yo Museum at Chico, the innovative San Diego Zoo), with suggestions for art, writing, and science projects. Fact pages offer lists of California's natural areas, museums, and a biographical dictionary, making this well-produced volume an outstanding source for anyone investigating California. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft