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National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas: Maps, Games, Activities, and More for Hours of Backseat Fun Paperback – March 13, 2012
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"No Wi-Fi? No problem. Whether you’re driving through states or flying over them on your family vacation, this cool atlas will keep kids engaged with the geography and history all around them." --parentmap.com
"This atlas won’t disappoint the young geographer.” --A Reading Life
About the Author
Crispin Boyer is a frequent contributor to National Geographic Kids Magazine. This is his third book for National Geographic.
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The book is colorful, magazine-sized, and very appealing, visually. Most states get a 2-page spread, with a map of the state on one page, 5 Cool Things to do Here surround the map, with colored pointers to their locations, and off to the side a few smaller sections like popular roadside attractions (usually 3), and either a Fantastic State Facts or Traffic Laws You Won't Believe section. There is a brief description of the geography of each state, and images of the state bird, flower, and animal are near the state's name.
Each state also has its own Boredom Buster that will occupy kids for quite a while, though they can be technology-focused. Examples include taking pictures of Clinton references as you travel through Arkansas, searching for famous people from Iowa and see who can find the most, taking pictures of tornado shelters in Kansas and see who can find the most, etc. It also includes 10 pages of games at the back which are colorful, but probably won't last more than a half hour.
Some critics have made it sound like there's not much to the book. I can see that argument in one sense. There's not enough information to occupy bored kids for several hours, as you drive through a state. I do agree with the comment that the US map is too small. With the format of the book, the map could have been nearly 11 x 17, yet it's shrunk down to about 2/3 of the available space with a large, wasted green border around it. It's a good map, showing the Interstate highways with approximate drive times between each major city. It's a great way for kids to practice their time and math skills. It's just disappointing that it could have been substantially larger without changing its focus or function in any way. As a kid's atlas with lots of added trivia, it's WAY more interesting for my two boys than a regular atlas. Could they have included more information? Yes, but they could have made the pages too overwhelming for younger readers, too. I think the colorful design and layout make the atlas accessible for a wide range of ages. Though most suited for 8-12 year olds, I know many of my high school students would prefer this to a standard atlas for the trivia and layout, alone.
I evaluate such a book of the 50 states by what is written about my home state, Louisiana. I begin there/here. Each state is allotted two pages. The state map fills one page and information and state symbols the other. The little roads are missing--after all, it takes a big fold-out to include those--but all the state and federal roads are intact. How do I know? A rather narrow state road, 28, runs between Federal Highway 171 and Interstate 49. So what? My grandparents lived in a small community, Simpson, along 28. No, Simpson didn't make the map, but 28 is there.
What is included for each state are these items:
1. 5 Cool things to do here (In Louisiana you can visit the Rose Garden in Shreveport, take a Bayou Boat Tour, visit the Aquarium of the Americas, go through Cajun Country, and tour the French Quarter of New Orleans. A green line exactly locates each place.)
2. A summary paragraph
3. Roadside attractions, like Mardi Gras World, a musuem showing how a float is made
4. Odd information: Did you know that alligators must stay at least 200 yards away from the Mardi Gras parade route.
Each state is set up similarly. Imagine how children can have fun with this--and learn during the summer on those ghastly road trips. The U. S. Road Atlas is most beneficial.
I just flipped open to a particular state. Question: Which state is divided into two parts by the Chesapeake Bay? Yes, if you live near this region, you can answer that. I could not have answered the question. Or this one: In which state is the Wild Horses Assateague State Park? Answer to both questions is Maryland. OK, one more about Maryland: Which state gave up some of its land to form Washington, D.C.?
At an incredibly low price, you can have this book for your children, your students, or, ahem, for yourself. I bought (with library funds) 10 copies for a project I plan to do soon with my middle elementary students.
The book has maps of each state as well as a US map. It contains games and activities and is definitely appropriate for children of various ages. It can be used differently based on the ages and developmental levels of kids. It is a good conversation starter for young children.
We have not actually taken the book on a road trip yet, but find it both educational and enjoyable.