Book Review: The Scrambled States of America Talent Show
When the original “Scrambled States of America” was published in 2002, it really caught on. Attaining a crossover appeal that is rare for any book, it wasn’t long before you could put together the “Scrambled States” puzzle, or play the “Scrambled States” game. All this happened for good reason: Laurie Keller combined humor, quirky illustrations, and some certified geography learnin’ to create a riot of a book that kids will be reading for a long time. It also worked onÂ two levels -Â the story was good for read aloud time,Â yet theÂ margins were bursting with witty asides that young readers would have toÂ enjoyÂ when they could hold the book in their own hands. “Scrambled States of America Talent Show” continues to keep the entertainment level high. This time out, the geography takes a bit of a back seat, but the humor is present in spades. If you want to prove to a youngster that reading can be fun, put this in their book in their hands.
In children’s books,Â a enticing opening is as good as gold. “Talent Show” begins with Uncle Sam, sweeping up the floor when he is interrupted by Tennessee and Wisconsin…
Hello there. I’m Sam. Please pardon the mess. We’re just cleaning up after the big-
Wait, Uncle Sam! Don’t spoil it!
You have to start from the beginning!
Oh, I suppose you’re right, you two.
Well, okeydokey then, take your seats everyone. It’s showtime!
On the next page we see all the states, about to doze off for the night, when New York is struck by and idea. Talent show. The other states are quick to jump on the bandwagon – except for Georgia, who has a case of stage fright. The show begins, and the states start parading their talents. Michigan’s lower peninsula does a ventriloquist act with the upper peninsula, Minnesota saws South Dakota in half, and Wyoming and Tennessee do a spot on impression of Oklahoma. Toward the end of the show Georgia overcomes her fears in time to perform with California, Idaho, and the rest of the Jolly Jugglers in the final act.
In the original “States”, the geography knowledge was slightly more front and center. The states wanted to switch places, but ran into problems with the weather or environment in their new location. In “Talent Show”, it’s more of an out and out good time, with lists of the state abbreviations and statehood dates residing on the endpapers to beef up the social studies quotient.
The acrylic and collage illustrations have a handmade quality that adds personality to the characters. I’ve never before seen coffee and M&Ms credited as assisting the illustrating process, but credited they are, giving you an idea of the kind of jokes contained within the rest of the story. Fonts are also used well. Keller employs a number of different styles, each used to emphasize a different mood, sound, or voice.
“The Scrambled States of America Talent Show” will make young readers smile. A thing any kid can appreciate.
Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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