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Children's LiteratureHere's a clever gimmick for a book about a state—the right-hand side of the book is cut to resemble Virginia's eastern shoreline. Unfortunately, the cleverness stops when the reader opens the cover. The book is written as if it were a tour of the state, led by a boy named Beauregard T. Jackson. He has a rather courtly speech pattern that becomes annoying after about two sentences, and he has a tendency to speak of "that great conflict known as the American Civil War" in glowing, romantic terms. A girl named Penny comes along for the tour. Her function is to ask obvious questions and make empty-headed comments. The illustrations of both characters, along with all the historical figures and places mentioned in the book, are rendered in cartoon fashion, giving no sense whatsoever of what these people and places actually looked like. One supposes that the cartoons, along with Beau's speech pattern, are meant to be humorous, but they come off as too cute. The page layouts are bland, and the plain, sans serif typeface makes the big blocks of print look stark and unappealing. All in all, it appears that the creators of this book series, "State Shapes," never got the word that one should not "write down" to children. 2000, Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, Ages 8 to 11.
—Barbara Carroll Roberts