CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 26 . . . . March 9, 2012
Providing a very general overview of the five main regions of the United States, these titles comprise the "All Around the U.S." series. Each book has 13 chapters and contains information about the featured region's history, geography, climate, economy and culture. All of the books begin with similar introductions which explain the geographical location of the United States and its five major regions and provide a large colour-coded map which not only shows the regions, but also each of the United States, labelled with their state abbreviations. Being such a large country, the United States has a great variety of landforms and climates, and, even within the smaller regions, there is great diversity, so it is difficult, in volumes such as these, to give much more than basic information, but the authors do manage to give readers an overall sense of the regions and their unique features, and, as much as possible, they attempt to give equal billing to each of the states and major cities within the area. The text is simple in font and easy to comprehend, but there are a few typographical errors and a couple of poorly worded sentences. Illustrations are plentiful and consist of maps, drawings, paintings, and archival as well as colour photographs. A table of contents, a timeline, a glossary, an index, and a list of books and websites for further study are provided.
Referred to as "America's Heartland" due to its location in the centre of the United States, the Midwest is comprised of 12 states and is a mix of rural and urban lifestyles. What's in the Midwest? takes readers to the "Corn Belt" (the four states that grow more than half of the country's corn), "America's Dairyland" (Wisconsin, which is known for its cheese), and to the cities of Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis, among others. Visitors to the Midwest will see flat land, rolling hills, mountains and canyons as well as wheat fields. The area also boasts Mount Rushmore, Wisconsin Dells, the Indianapolis 500 car race and the Mall of America. Readers will also learn about the glacial effect on the region's landforms and rivers and the effect of the Great Lakes on its winters, bringing more snow and cool breezes. One of the Midwest's most beloved authors, Laura Ingalls Wilder, wrote about pioneer life in the area.
What's in the Northeast? focuses on the oldest settled area of the United States, with nine of the original 13 colonies located in this 11-state region. The cities of New York, Philadelphia and Boston are situated here as is Harvard University. Rated number one in the U.S., Harvard is the country's oldest institution of higher learning. There are two main sections in the Northeast- the New England States and the Atlantic States. The Appalachian Mountains, called by three different names- Alleghenies, Catskills and White Mountains- depending on the state, run through the region, and freshwater provides hydroelectric power. Niagara Falls is, perhaps, the region's best known natural landmark. Together the mountains, lakes and ocean affect the region's climate. One example is the Nor'Easters, east coast storms that can cause coastal flooding. Among the many examples of resources and manufacturing are Vermont's maple syrup, New York's wine production (third in all of the U.S.), Pennsylvania's steel, and the Atlantic Ocean's bounty of seafood which includes crab, lobster and oysters.
Twelve states, stretching along the Atlantic coast to the Gulf of Mexico, comprise the Southeast. This region boasts the nation's oldest city (St. Augustine, Florida), the Mammoth Caves (the world's largest cave system, 628 km long), and Disney World, a tourist attraction that employs 62,000 people, more than any other site in the country. The Southeast is also home to the Kentucky Derby and to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, a 3,500 km public walking trail which crosses five states. Florida provides the oranges for 90% of all the orange juice consumed in the nation. In What's in the Southeast? readers will also find out about hurricanes which are common to the region, the Civil War and the Underground Railroad, and the influence of Native American, African and Cajun culture. The area is also known for its coal and oil production as well as its agriculture, particularly its citrus fruit, legume and peanut crops.
Only four states comprise the Southwest, but they cover a very large area of land. This region's warm climate attracts visitors and new residents (particularly retirees and snowbirds) and four of the most popular American cities- Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio and Dallas- are found here. Known for its plateaus, deserts and canyons, including the majestic Grand Canyon, parts of this region are also famous for their extreme weather- thunderstorms, tornadoes and hurricanes. In What's in the Southwest? there is information about the Pueblo, Apache and Navajo people, the influence of Spanish missions, and cowboy culture. Many festivals reflect the various groups of people who make the Southwest their home- Native Americans, Hispanics and Anglo-Americans. Natural resources include minerals, oil and natural gas, while agricultural production includes wheat, cotton, lettuce, pecans, beef and pork. One of Arizona's many tourist attractions is Montezuma Castle, an ancient cliff dwelling built by the Sinagua tribe 1,000 years ago.
What's in the West? focuses on the 11 states that are divided into two subgroups- the Mountain States and the Pacific States. This region includes Alaska and Hawaii which are separated from the rest of the country by land and ocean. In addition, Hawaii is the only state that is made up of islands. The West has a diverse climate, ranging from the subarctic in Alaska to the tropical in Hawaii. Climate not only affects lifestyle, but also the vegetation, which ranges from giant redwoods and tropical fruit trees to prairie wheat and spruce trees. Landforms in the West include the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada mountain range, deserts, grasslands and plains, as well as the Great Salt Lake in Utah and Death Valley in California. The production of vegetables, wheat and cereal crops in the prairie areas, grapes and other fruits in sunny California, and macadamia nuts, pineapples and sugar cane in Hawaii make for a diverse agriculture as do cattle and hog farming. The region's proximity to the ocean results in a lucrative fishing industry as well. Tourism is the main source of revenue in many parts of the West, specifically Colorado, Idaho and Utah (for skiing), Nevada (the entertainment capital of the world), Hollywood and the Hawaiian islands. Everett, Washington, is home to the Boeing jet-manufacturing plant, the largest assembly plant in the world, while Portland, Oregon is known for its manufacture of electronics. Large cities in the West include Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Due to the fact that individual titles cover so many states, there is a limit to the amount of information that they can provide. As a general overview for the casual reader, this series is quite acceptable, but for the student who is working on a research project, there is not enough detailed information about each state.
Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.