Nonfiction Monday: National Parks by Erin McHugh
National Parks: A Kid’s Guide to America’s Parks, Monuments, and Landmarks
By Erin McHugh
Art by Neal Aspinall, Doug Leen, and Brian Maebius
Black Dog & Leventhal
It’s easy to overlook guides. They can be unassuming, but if your library is like mine, these guides to plants, gemstones, dogs, and horses have a lot of quiet fans. It makes sense – were nonfiction books to be rated on a facts per square inch scale (heretofore known as f.p.s.i.), guides would score high. In terms of reader appeal, this isn’t to be overlooked. But for whatever reason, guides are often an afterthought. Let’s start the sprucing up here then, with a well-constructed handbook to America’s national parks.
After a brief introduction on the history of the national parks, things start to get more specific. Parks are categorized by state, with each one given a short, fact-filled description. Surrounding these blocks of text are photos, vintage illustrations, captions, call-outs, factoids and additional information. Each park features a “By the Numbers” section, listing notable dates and data, and an “Amazing but True” fact that leans toward the unexpected. Additionally, “The Great American Birdwatch” puts a spotlight on species that you might find at each stop. While the book covers 75 or so, the list of national parks is long (Alaska alone has eight), making this more of a long list of highlights rather than a comprehensive resource.
The design of National Parks is a strength. Vibrant photographs and bold fonts mix nicely with retro illustrations. It’s a book that young readers will be drawn to.
Guides may not be the hippest things in your collection, but for certain kids, they’re some of the most valuable. Get your hands on National Parks – young naturalists (or even kids stuck on a road trip against their will) will be glad you did.
Review copy from the library.
Look inside National Parks:
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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