Monday, April 28, 2008

Traveling with Anna Series by Laura Crawford

Traveling With Anna/ De Viaje con Ana series by Laura Crawford

Reading level: Grades 2-3
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Raven Tree Press; Bilingual edition (2008)
Language: English, Spanish
Source of books: F&Gs from publisher

I've always been a sucker for travel guides, destination books, travel websites, etc. I think it's a combination of the control freak in me who likes to plan every trip down to the very last detail and the wanna-be world traveler who loves to learn about and visit new places.

Now kids who love to learn about new places can do so with Laura Crawford's bilingual Traveling with Anna/ De Viaje con Ana series.

There are currently three books in the series:This interesting blend of fiction and nonfiction introduces children to U.S. cities through postcards written by the fictional character, Anna.

Photo courtesy Raven Tree Press

Each interior spread includes interesting information about a site or landmark in the city featured in the book in a number of ways. First, Ana writes a postcard to a relative or friend about the site in English. Next, three interesting facts about the site are written in both English and Spanish. Finally, a full-color photograph is also included in the spread.

Anna's postcards introduce kids to the featured city through a child's eyes. For example, in the Washington, D.C. book, when writing about the Lincoln Memorial, Anna wraps up her postcard with, "I wanted to climb on his lap, but Mom said no." I can only imagine how many children in real life have wanted to do this.

The bulleted facts themselves are appealing instead of the "boring" details kids are used to reading in history textbooks. Sticking with the Lincoln Memorial spread, kids learn that Lincoln's nickname was Honest Abe, that he never received a lot of formal education, and more.

Presenting the facts in both English and Spanish opens the doors to a variety of readers, including those learning English and/or Spanish, ESL learners, and Spanish speaking parents who have limited books in their language in which to read to their children. I only wish the postcards were written in both languages instead of just English because the postcards make the books unique and hold the greatest appeal.

The straightforward and clean book design makes the books appealing to older learners who will most likely not be embarrassed to be seen with the book. When I taught ESL to high schoolers, I had a big challenge to find books at their English-reading level that weren't too childish. They were constantly complaining that they couldn't find anything other than "baby books."

The Traveling with Anna series would make wonderful resources in a geography, social studies, ESL, or Spanish classroom. They'd also be a great way to introduce children to different US cities and to get them excited about vacation if you happen to be visiting one of the cities in the book. I look forward to seeing more books in the series.

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