Monday, July 26, 2010

Review of State of Reservations by Elysabeth Eldering

Because of my interest in state history, I'm always on the lookout for new resources related to the states of the U.S. The latest resource I’ve discovered is called, State of Reservations, by Elysabeth Eldering, #3 in her Junior Geography Detective Squad series. 

The main characters are Matt and Jolene, students who are studying for a test in geography. To make it easier, they decide to play a trivia game about states. The goal of the game is to guess the state based on clues discovered as they proceed through the game.

The facts and trivia presented range from obvious facts about the state to obscure licensing laws, all of which helps keep the state a “secret” until the end of the book. Interaction and banter between the two characters as they work through the game maintains the reader’s interest in learning the new facts.

The main characters, from their speech and actions, as well as from the illustrations, appear to be teenagers. The boy refers to Joline as “the girl of his dreams.” Because of this, I first thought the book was written for junior or senior high school students. However, the text is written for elementary grade level. I would have preferred that the author and illustrator use age-appropriate characters for the text.

There are a few grammatical errors in the book. For example, “Matt watched Jolene’s expression for a moment longer than he had planned to.” (Italics mine.) Some of the sentence structures were awkward such as, “One of these days, I’m going to travel the whole road and stop at all the historic places, after I learn about them all, of course.” The book could use more editing.

However, in spite of its flaws, it can be useful for stimulating interest in state history. An addendum in the back of the book provides additional facts about the state. A CD is also available, which includes five discussion questions/research projects, a map skills worksheet, a fill-in word scramble, and an end-of-book quiz with 14 questions. Answers are included on the CD, as well as a bibliography for further study. 

The author has plans to create a "Passport Across America" booklet in which kids can collect what they learn about each state. All the activities will be included in this resource. More information can be found on the author's website. Retails for $12.50.

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