Monday, October 27, 2014

58 Shopping Days Left! Review: Our Great States - What's Great About New Mexico? by Jenny Fretland VanVoorst

What's Great about New Mexico?

As a librarian, I am always looking for just the right set of state books. I'm not asking for much - just plenty of interesting, accurate information, presented in a way that is both accessible and useful to a wide variety of grade levels. Oh, and with great photographs. And not too expensive. That's all.

Accuracy is one of the most important requirements, of course, and what better way to check the series than to look at your own state first? I happened to pick this up just as we were gearing up for the local balloon invitational, so the cover grabbed my attention right away. It is nice to see a book about New mexico that doesn't automatically bring out the stereotype of cacti and cowboys, too. 

The opening pages give a basic map (hey, look, there I am at that yellow dot, waving at you!), mention of some 'star attractions', the state nickname woven in, and the ubiquitous red chilis.

Following are ten places the author felt "make New Mexico great". While I can certainly think of more, there was a wide variety, spread throughout the state. Each gets a two-page spread, with an outline map showing the approximate location. More of a travel guide than a research source, it does have a page of quick facts in the back, glossary, index, and resources for more information.

While this wouldn't be a good primary source for a report, I found it to contain accurate and interesting information. I will be adding the series to our collection as funding allows, but will still use a couple other series for the school assignments, and 'sell' these as good extra material.

Gifting suggestions: This series would be an awesome way to start exploring your own state (or one that you might be visiting/moving to soon). An obvious gift would be a promise to visit one or more of the places listed - or maybe a promise to visit all ten within the next year! 

What foods are associated with your state? Try some new recipes and have a fun day preparing a meal for the whole family together. For New Mexico that could mean biscochitos, tamales, or chile rellenos (all of which my spell check says don't exist).

How about crafts? Retablos, Ojos de Dios, pottery (Note: I was super pleased to see the Native American peoples of NM spoken of as separate peoples, not all lumped together, and to see that they are not just treated as historic peoples who no longer exist. If you decide to delve into the Native American crafts of your state, please be sensitive to the fact that, regardless of what you may see in tourist traps, some crafts are actually an expression of their religion. Treating sand painting, for example, as a fun arts and crafts project, is something like treating a rosary as a piece of costume jewelry. Just say no.)

Are there other places in your state that your child thinks should be included? Package this book with a blank, bound book and a digital camera, and go visit them - then make your own guidebook to share with visiting friends and family!

***This is a brand-spankin-new series, and it is coming out in waves. A second chunk is due in February of 2015, so don't lose heart if you can't find your state just yet - that doesn't mean they couldn't find anything great there!

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