cover image The Scrambled States of America

The Scrambled States of America

Laurie Keller. Henry Holt & Company, $17.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-5802-4

It's hard to imagine a more engaging (or comical) way to learn the 50 states and their locations than in this auspicious debut from Keller. Dorothy may have thought there's no place like home when she clicked her red ruby slippers, but her native state's wanderlust starts all the trouble here. Kansas is bored (""All day long we just sit here in the middle of the country. We never GO anywhere. we never DO anything"") and drafts best friend Nebraska into the cause of stirring things up. Soon they're throwing a potluck party for all the states (the spread includes ""Iowa Corn Surprise"" and ""Boston Baked Beans"") and everyone delights in the idea of seeing another part of the country. Keller bestows a unique personality onto each of the states, yet keeps them true to their national identity. Kansas gets to take exotic Hawaii's place (""Aloha, world!""), Wisconsin packs up its famous cheese, Nevada and Mississippi fall in love (""Do you want to become MRS.issippi?"" Nevada asks), and in a subtle lesson, Maryland places the Washington Monument and Capitol building carefully in a suitcase (""Are you o.k. in there Mr. President?""). Keller cleverly illustrates the chaos that ensues when the states cross country (e.g., the displaced Great Lakes ask, ""Um... where did Michigan go?""). Soon the gang get homesick for their native lands, and New York hails a taxi home, California flies west in a plane, while a hitchhiking Connecticut cops a ride with Massachusetts, New Jersey and Maine. Readers will unwittingly learn more than they bargained for about the (finally) United States, while poring over the endless witty remarks exchanged over state lines. Ages 6-9. (Oct.)