Welcome to Florida – by Åsa Gilland. Doubleday, 2021. 9780593178256
Welcome to Texas – by Åsa Gilland. Doubleday, 2021. 9780593178270
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3
What did you like about the book? This new illustrated series offers up a charming introduction to basic facts about the states. Each volume follows a similar format, beginning with a map of the United States with the state made prominent by a brighter color than its neighbors. A state map resembling a vintage postcard or tea towel, featuring major cities, important landmarks, and images of local wildlife is accompanied by interesting information about the state’s name origin or its nickname, as well as what it is best known for in terms of geography and climate. These introductory pages are followed by features about symbols such as the state bird, flower, tree, and animals, depicted in cute cartoonish style and described in easy text. A very few places to visit and sights to see are highlighted, as well as popular recreational activities (surfing in California, football in Texas), and a full spread is devoted to local food specialties. Attention is paid to cultural diversity (also well-reflected on the food page spread) and ethnic heritage of the state. What might be the most interesting to young readers is the “unusual things to see if you’re out for a drive” – like London Bridge in Arizona or the southernmost point buoy in Florida. The final spread shows a diverse crew of kids saying “Hello” in a variety of ways, such as local dialect like “Howdy!” as well as other languages.
These books will serve as a great way to pique youngsters’ curiosity about the states; they do not provide a great deal of detail about anything but teach a little bit about a lot of things in kid-friendly language. The retro-style illustrations in a muted color palette are fun to look at with lots of local flair in the details. The books would be great gifts for state residents to send to young friends and relatives in other states, and would likely be popular items in tourist gift shops as well.
Anything you did not like about the book? The lack of back matter is a real disservice to this cute series; kids might like to see photographs of some of the landmarks or animals featured in the books, or recommendations for websites or books for further learning. Also worth mentioning is that Texas and Florida have the same state bird (the mockingbird), and the page spreads in the two books were identical.
To whom would you recommend this book? Lower elementary readers who enjoy reading about places they’ve been or would like to visit will love poring over the sweet illustrations. Upper elementary teachers could use them as exemplars for a state project report!
Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Nonfiction – 970s section
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? no
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.
Date of review: 2/5/2021