Whitewater rivers, coal mines, the Appalachiansit must be West Virginia! Capstone's "Land and Liberty" series (about the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C.) covers the usual topics geography and climate, state history and government, the people and their culture, but the slender volumes offer an overview rather than an opportunity to delve into the differences that make each state unique. Maps are restricted to two, one shows cities and the other charts major geographical features. Since the text consists of short, declarative sentences, fluent readers may find it less than appealing; illustrations are mostly color photos, adequate, but not exciting. In this volume, the most striking image depicts the threatened Cheat Mountain salamander. The text, awkward even for this series, gives a quick tour of the state's history, offering very little information on the coal miners' long and violent struggle to unionize (or organizer Mother Jones), and no exploration of West Virginia's rich Appalachian culture. Middle readers will enjoy a sidebar on sonic pilot Chuck Yeager and, especially, a recipe for black walnut maple pie, made with syrup and nuts from West Virginia's abundant forests. Special features include an almanac of facts about the state, a short timeline, a glossary, and a bibliography, which, unfortunately, does not list works of fiction (like Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Shiloh) that might enrich understanding of the history and people of West Virginia. Compared to some others, the price of this series is modest, but so is its usefulness. 2004, Capstone, Ages 9 to 13.
Barbara L. Talcroft