A gallimaufry of facts, oddities, and personalities makes Balkan and Linero’s work a storybook atlas, leaving the navigation to your GPS.
Balkan and Linero have eschewed the topographical for the narrative in hopes of presenting something of the distinctive character of each state in the Union, plus good old D.C. The oversized pages brim with small clumps of information, resulting in lots of introductory factoids with very little of substance. There is a vest-pocket introduction to each state, a timeline of selectively significant dates in the state’s history, and boxes of key facts, such as capital city, state flower and bird, time zone. Effort has been taken to present an array of personalities associated with the state—assiduously varying gender, ethnicity, and race—and to provide what might be called iconic elements. There are Tlingit nation canoes in Alaska, Walden Pond in Massachusetts, Harpers Ferry in West Virginia (but also the first pepperoni roll and first red-brick street; not all icons are serious business). In addition, for each state the author has included at least one writer, as well as Caldecott and Newbery winners. Though the atlas is quite busy, the color is oddly muted; the saltwater-taffy chromatic range blends the states together rather than highlighting their distinguishing features.
Fun but arbitrary; the real excitement starts when something sparks an interest and there isn’t enough here to satisfy your curiosity. (Atlas. 8-12)