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Portraits of the States Series: California

By Tamra B. Orr
Gareth Stevens Publishing (A Weekly Reader Company)

1 Reader's Digest Road
Pleasantville, NY 10570-7000

Weekly Reader Corporation
3001 Cindel Drive
Delran, NJ 08075

Portraits of the States California is a 32-page paperback book designed for students in grades 3 and 4. It introduces a young reader to the western state of California. The book is filled with color photographs of state landmarks, such as the Golden Gate Bridge. The type size is large, and the vocabulary words are printed in bold print. There are several smaller insert sections with fun facts, like the state's motto. The book includes information about the history of the area prior to statehood, the Chinese workers building the Transcontinental Railroad, the Dust Bowl, and the internment of the Japanese Americans. It even includes Johann Sutter and Arnold Schwarzenegger. There is a chapter on the land and another on the economy. The last chapter is on sites to see.

Portraits of the States California is a small cursory history book that could be used in a homeschool as an introductory history book. It was written for all audiences and is not Christian in particular.

I liked the pictures and the fun facts in the book. If I were to return to teaching in a public school, I think that Portraits of the States California would be a good book for independent reading by the diverse student body.

Each history book is going to focus on different things. This book focused on the cultural diversity in the state. It included small cities like Oakley and San Juan Capistrano but didn't include any governors other than Schwarzenegger. The book is not neutral in its opinions. For example, it says, "Priests forced many to become Christians and to work for them." In the section on World War II, the book states that "the United States fought Japan and other countries." My son ignored some of the sections that I expected him to read simply because they weren't part of the narrative but were in break-out, independent sections.

Overall, Portraits of the States California is a good independent reader book, but a user would need to augment it to fully explain the history of the state.

Product review by Maggi Beardsley, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, November 2008

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