Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Scrambled States of America, by Laurie Keller (1998)

The Scrambled States of AmericaUnlike many of the other books I've been blogging about, this one is not one I selected for its aesthetic appeal or literary awards.  Miss E had been expressing curiosity about the 50 States, and we stumbled on this title in the library.  Though I am often skeptical about "concept" books---I hate it when a book's didacticism overpowers its story---I'm glad to have found this one.  And Miss E has put it into very heavy rotation, requesting back-to-back reads two nights in a row and giggling the whole way through.

The premise of the book is the fifty states, bored with sitting in the same place, overhearing the same neighbors, get together for a party and decide to try switching places.  Needless to say, the novelty quickly wears off and the experiment is short-lived, but the journey is supremely silly and at time truly witty.  Keller manages to render each state distinctively through the playful addition of simple but remarkably expressive facial features.  The text can appeal differently to younger and to somewhat older readers---younger children can enjoy the primary narrative while older ones (and adults) can also engage the more complex (though still joyfully absurd) humor of the marginalia and other textual detail (picture Colorado boasting of its ability to tap dance or Wisconsin inflicting cheese on lactose-intolerant California).  The last few pages of the book offer portraits of each individual state beaming proudly (accompanied by nickname, capital, size, and population) as well as a very funny two-page comic spread imagining some of the scrambled encounters (the Space Needle trying to imitate the Gateway Arch, a confrontation between gangs of Iowa corn and Idaho potatoes, Alabama peanuts hiking in the Rockies, etc.)

Worth Noting: 
  •   Some of the marginalia and smaller detail are presented in very small lettering, not such a good thing if your bedtime reading space is dimly lit or if...well...the things you liked in high school are now labeled "retro."
  • Keller's website includes a small but interesting selection of educator-support materials.
  • If you enjoy this book, there is a sequel:  The Scrambled States of America: Talent Show.

Miss E's Read:  LOVE LOVE LOVES the idea of a state scramble.  Also adores the picture of Vermont hugging a fiercely sunburned Minnesota, who youches loudly in response.  And the page where Tennessee keeps dropping its fork.

No comments:

Post a Comment