The USA Olympic teams exceeded expectations a few weeks ago. These books carry the country's patriotism by showcasing its beauty, history and strength.
"Around America to Win the Vote" by Mara Rockliff; illustrated by Hadley Hooper; Candlewick Press; 40 pages; $16.99.
In 1916, Nell Richardson and Alice Burke set out in a little, yellow car with a wee black kitten to drive all the way around America. They encountered a blizzard in Baltimore, Maryland, got stuck in the mud, joined a circus parade in Georgia and were invited to an all-yellow lunch in South Carolina, all while promoting a message "Votes for Women!" They smuggled their kitty into a fine hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana, dodged bullets by the Rio Grande in New Mexico and won a medal at the fair in California for driving across America. Then, they drove some more; they kept going and going, with the aim of getting Americans to listen to their voting-rights pleas.
Friendly, lighthearted text and vintage, candy-colored illustrations make Nell and Alice's road trip a rollicking adventure. Their vivacious spirits and resilient attitudes will show children that taking on a cause can be fun and successful, and that it's best done with a friend. (A cute kitten and an adorable little car don't hurt, either.) In the book there is also more detailed information, a note on sources and lists of books for further reading.
"Ranger Rick: National Parks!" by Stacy Tornio & Ken Keffer; Muddy Boots; 144 pages; $14.95.
In partnership with Ranger Rick magazine is this colorful, lively paperback book that celebrates America's national parks. Ranger Rick explores them all, from the crown jewels — Yellowstone, Sequoia and the Grand Canyon — to the lesser, but equally gorgeous parks, such as Big Bend National Park in Oregon and Biscayne National Park in Florida. The fascinating facts, lists of animals and plants, and the two to four photograph-filled pages dedicated to each park make this kid-friendly guide really cool and inspiring. It also lists the top activities to do in each park, such as sledding down the dunes at Great Sands Dunes National Park, or exploring the bat-filled caves at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
Happy 100th birthday, National Park Service! And thanks to National Wildlife Federation's Ranger Rick for such a great reminder to kids and families to get out and explore America's finest outdoor gems.
"A Texas Year" and "A New York Year" by Tania McCartney; illustrated by Tina Snerling; EK Books; 32 pages; $17.99.
These very American guides, from Australian publisher EK Books, are colorful picture books peppered with round-faced children and fun facts about each state, from month to month. In Texas in January, Luis, Alexis, Christopher, Ethan and Mia eat black-eyed peas and go horseback riding. In April in Texas, the Dallas Blooms Flower Festival occurs, and so does Fiesta San Antonio. The kids play, go to school and celebrate lots of Texas-related activities.
New York kids Fabian, Madison, Jayla, Sofia and Alexander celebrate Navy Fleet Week in May, ride the Staten Island ferry in July and run with Dad in the New York City Marathon in November.
There are lots more fun-filled titles in the popular "A Kids' Year" series online.
"Westward Ho, Charlie Brown!" by Charles M. Schulz; illustrated by Tom Brannon; Little Patriot Press; 32 pages; $14.99.
Created by the great Charles M. Schulz, but penned by Tracy Stratford, who played the voice of Lucy, this refreshingly cool picture book sends Charlie Brown, Snoopy and pals packing up and hitting the trail, riding to Oregon in their own covered wagons. Along the way, they encounter all sorts of modern setbacks, such as "no rootbeer floats" and Lucy's seriously sore feet, but they are set straight by Franklin's historical facts. In the end, the friends can't quite hack the camping part due to a strange creature's wailing (who is really Snoopy), and then they are homeward bound.
With extra pages about pioneer travel and life out West, this book of the "Peanuts Great American Adventure" series is lighthearted and should spark interest in history. Other books in the series are "It's a New World, Charlie Brown!" and "Hooray for Liberty, Charlie Brown!"
"Travels With Gannon & Wyatt: Hawaii" by Patti Wheeler and Keith Hemstreet; Greenleaf Group Press; 194 pages; $14.95.
Slightly older kids who love fast-paced drama and thrills will love this culture-and-history-based series, this time centered on the big island of Hawaii. Inspired by the great explorers and their journals, Patti Wheeler, Keith Hemstreet and real-life twins Gannon and Wyatt travel the vast, amazing island, while bringing the culture, history, sights and sounds alive to readers. If readers don't know, Hawaii is home to four of the five climate zones on Earth; the dormant volcano Mauna Kea is one of the best locations to view stars; and more importantly, the island is an extinction capitol, with 70 percent of its birds now gone.
Written with an exciting, informative tone, these adventurers have visited Botswana, Egypt, Greenland, Ireland and the Great Bear Rainforest. Wheeler and Hemstreet also take their valuable information to social media. They hope to show kids that at the core, human beings everywhere are very much alike, and that's it's vital to find peace and healthy environments.
To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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