Monday, September 5, 2016

A New York Year and A Texas Year

A Texas Year; A New York Year
written by Tania McCartney; illustrated by Tina Snerling
2016 (EK Books)
Source: Review copies provided by the publisher

Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling bring their children's year concept to the United States after visiting Australia, England, and Scotland. Divided into twelve months, this calendar year focus on each state features five students who share their cultural and personal events that are a combination of the familiar and the unique.

In Texas, you get what you might have been expecting: rodeos in February with bull riding, barrel racing, and roping. Wonderful Tex-Mex food such as fajitas, queso dip, and tacos. And uniquely Texas events like Texas Independence Day on March 2nd. You learn that the longhorn has horns wider than a man's height and that you can't put graffiti on someone's cow. What you may not know is that Texas has the greatest variety of flowers and reptiles. I like the mentions of flora throughout the book. It's a fun mix of short facts and bright illustrations. A Texas Year would be a good starting point for a student just beginning their research on the state. There's not a lot of depth here but it's not designed to be an encyclopedia. It's a gateway to more research about Texas. The two page spread in the back with a political map, a table of state facts, and more facts spread around is a great way to tie off the book.

The New York book works in a similar fashion. It is very city-centric, so you won't get a lot of information about places outside of the five boroughs. There are brief mentions of the Adirondacks and the Catskills, but most of the events and places in the book are located in New York City and the immediate surrounding area. Like Texas, it's a good way to begin gathering knowledge about the area. The two page spread in the back with a political map of New York and a state facts table is, like the Texas book, probably my favorite part of the book. I like learning facts like yogurt being the official snack of New York and that more people live inside the city limits of NYC than in 39 of the 50 states.

These books can be used to teach the skill of comparing and contrasting. How do New York and Texas compare or how does your state compare to these two? They also can serve as a mentor text for students to create their own calendar book about their state or their home city/town. The books can also be good practice for analyzing author's choices and making your own argument about what should have been included. For myself, I would have liked to seen a separate mention of Niagara Falls in the New York book and college football get a mention in the Texas book, but that's just one person's opinion. I like you can use these books to tease out that skill of analyzing.

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