cover image The News Hounds in the Great Balloon Race: A Geography Adventure

The News Hounds in the Great Balloon Race: A Geography Adventure

Amy Axelrod. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $13 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-82409-8

Verbal cues and visual clues just don't add up in this frustrating geography lesson by Axelrod (the Pigs Will Be Pigs math series) and Bowers (Sometimes I Wonder if Poodles Like Noodles), the first in a planned paper-over-board series. The News Hounds are three enthusiastic TV-newscasters who cover a hot-air-balloon race in East Texas. As Bowers winningly pictures them, news anchor Isaac is an English sheepdog, meteorologist Molly is a grinning golden retriever and camera-guy Jake is a bespectacled black lab. On their trip, they read a Texas state map, examine a chart to select their multicolored balloon and get aerial footage of tree-dotted fields. Axelrod's foreword instructs readers to skim the story ""just for fun,"" then to examine its geographical puzzles; a concluding ""Geography Challenge"" asks questions about the team's whereabouts throughout their assignment. However, the story and images give only oblique hints. Although the logo for the Hounds' TV show indicates that they're based in New York's Hudson Valley, no map indicates a cross-country journey. The book pictures Texas alone and asks readers to find a U.S. map. This seems more like homework than adventure. Ages 6-9. (Mar.)