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Armchair Traveling

    Is there time for one more quick vacation getaway before school starts?  Absolutely, if you choose the armchair traveler route.  Begin with Marjorie Priceman’s “How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A.,” a companion to her best-selling “How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World.”

    If you’re in the mood for cherry pie, but without a bowl, rolling pin, or any other equipment, start by taking a taxi to “the corner of Pennsylvania and Ohio.”  Find the nearest coal mine and fill your bucket to the brim, then head to Mississippi to pick cotton for your pot holders, to New Mexico for clay for your mixing bowl and so on.  Then all you have to do is process the coal with iron into a pie plate, spin the cotton into cloth for your pot holders, shape the clay into a bowl, glaze and fire it, and so on.  Once you’ve got your equipment in place, just follow the recipe!
    Priceman’s breezy tone and playful gouache paintings make this tour of the United States entertaining and informative for children five to eight.
    If a trip to the west coast is not on your agenda, take a virtual trip with Pam Muñoz Ryan’s “Our California.”  Starting in San Diego, where “there’s plenty to do./ Surf, swim and sun, then visit the zoo,” Ryan takes us to enticing spots like San Juan Capistrano, the Channel Islands, the gold mines, Yosemite, and more.
    Rafael López’s brightly colored acrylics make the most of these larger-than-life attractions, filling every corner with animals, plants, and details that encourage readers to pore over every page.  The only question you’ll have at the end of the book is which part of California to visit first.
    A bit closer to home, “Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building” by Deborah Hopkinson and James E. Ransome, will appeal to everyone who likes to watch buildings going up.  After the huge steel columns are put in place, “it’s the sky boys’ show.”  Derrick men swing the new beams in place, water boys climb up with a bucket to give the sky boys a drink, the riveting gang fastens the frame together, juggling red-hot metal and heavy hammers high up in the sky.  The illustration of four workers eating their lunch on a beam, with the city far below them, may make readers dizzy, but they’ll come away with renewed appreciation for the building that three thousand men built in record time back in 1931.  Black and white archival photos on the endpapers show kids even more details.
    Diane Yancey takes readers to “Al Capone’s Chicago” in this entry in the “Travel Guide” series.   Travelers to Chicago back in 1929 could fly in via the new Municipal Airport, take a train ride on the 20th Century Limited, or even brave the highway – don’t forget to pack water, tire patching materials, and baling wire for reattaching your fenders!  Famous sites included Al Capone’s house, modest on the outside but reputed to contain a seven-foot bathtub and marble sinks.  Lucky visitors might hear Louis Armstrong at the Plantation Café on East 35th Street.  The you-are-there style brings every detail to life.
    Others in this series introduce kids to ancient Alexandria, California’s gold country, and San Francisco in the 1960s.  Bon voyage!


This article was first published in the Free Lance-Star on 8/11/09.