Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Americana Adventure

Garland, Michael. 2008. Americana adventure. New York: Dutton.

Americana Adventure calls itself "a puzzle," "a hide-and-seek game," "a cross-country trip," and yes, it is all these things. The story follows Tommy as he travels across the country following a series of rhyming post-it notes that refer him to his next destination, "Head north to New York. Liberty stands in the bay. See the Brooklyn Bridge and The Great White Way" - a sort of "National Treasure" adventure for the picture book set.

While the concept is an interesting one, there are a few problems with the presentation. First, using the rhyme posed above, when Tommy arrives in New York, the illustrations clearly show the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and Broadway, however, the story never explains or mentions these landmarks. The reader only learns that Tommy eats pizza at Original Ray's and is directed to travel on to Beantown.

Each double-spread illustration is full of famous or historical quotes, "Speak softly and carry a big stick," presidential nicknames, "Old Man Eloquent," hidden coins and camouflaged letters. These interesting asides, however, will likely mean very little to Americana Adventure's audience. The book arrived at the library cataloged as E non-fiction. It is too busy and disjointed for E readers, and too juvenile in appearance for J readers.

The best use of this book is a one-on-one reading with a child interested in American history. The book's concept is worthy of note, but its execution could be improved to make it more accessible to young readers.

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