In the early 16th century, a Spanish romantic adventure book told of Queen Calafia and her magical land, California, where she led black-skinned Amazon women of great courage and wisdom; Hansen plays on this trope in this illustrated tribute that combines history and myth.
The book is presented as a series of imagined meetings between the ancient ruler and modern creatures who provide explanatory vignettes, arranged alphabetically: A is for “Alta California,” introduced by the condor; B is for the monarch butterfly, introduced by that insect; and so on. Vibrant, posterlike pictures accompany the vignettes and showcase the beauty and wealth of the flora, fauna, and history. Each creature supplies interesting informational tidbits, such as why the clipper ship is called that and how the quail’s topknot is formed of six overlapping feathers. These lagniappes are pure gold. The celebratory tone is leavened with caution; Calafia warns today’s citizens that, “It is unfortunate that your ‘Californians’ are often arrogant and inconsiderate. So many of them act foolishly with no thought of tomorrow. Their wastefulness and desire to have control over every other creature weigh against them.” Although the text is somewhat awkward, readers will certainly want to browse through this generous book, and many will hope that the illustrations might be released as posters.
A must in the Golden State; teachers in other states could use it as inspiration for their own mythic histories. (Nonfiction. 6-12)