The Journal of San Diego History
Summer 2002, Volume 48, Number 3
Gregg Hennessey, Editor

Book Reviews

“C” is for California. Written by Carol Greene, Illustrated by Michelle Dorenkamp. St. Charles, MO: GHB Publishers, 2000. Photographs, illustrations, index, suggested readings, references, 58 pages. $17.95 Cloth.

Fun, Facts & Games: California. Written by Julie Douglas, Illustrated by Larry Nolte. St. Charles, MO: GHB Publishers, 2000. Games, puzzles, 63 pages. $5.95 Paper.

Reviewed by Brigid McNamee, reading specialist/classroom teacher, a California transplant to Bow, New Hampshire.

Finding appropriate non-fiction books for young readers is always a challenge. This is especially true in finding informative reading material specific to the state of California. “C” is for California by Carol Greene illustrated by Michelle Dorenkamp is a book written for primary children to introduce them to some interesting facts about California.

Written as an ABC book, “C” is for California is geared for children ages 4-9. Each letter of the alphabet is illustrated by a black and white photo and cartoons depicting the subject of the letter. For example, the “H” is for Hollywood has a photograph of the Hollywood sign as well as cartoon drawings of children being a movie director and actors. Many of the pages include a small map of California highlighting the area in which the place of interest is found. The simple text is oversized and written for the young reader. Each letter topic contains three to four sentences explaining it. As expected, all of the letter topics relate to California, but they include a wide scope ranging from places of interest to people from history and even some goods and services provided. The book also has an index as well as a suggested reading list.

While the ABC format is a great one to use for informative books for young children, “C” is for California, is a disappointment. The lack of color pictures and the stilted text will makes this book a difficult one to use as a read-aloud for primary children. If readers compare “C” is for California with another ABC informative book “C” is for China by Sungwan So (Published 1997 Frances Lincoln Limited, London) the difference is evident. “C” is for China has a color format with more relevant photographs and the text, while a bit longer, is more informative and more engaging for children.

Carol Greene, has selected a wide range of topics for her book. She attempts to capture some of the fascinating aspects of California culture. For example “J” is for jeans goes on to explain the interesting beginnings of Levis. However, she is not consistent in capturing the wealth and richness of cultures, geography, and history that is so wonderful in California. Why choose “quartz” for “Q”? There is nothing unique to California about quartz. California’s state bird, the quail, appears only randomly on the end pages of the book and in a list of state symbols, but would have been an ideal candidate for Q.

In addition portions of the book are troubling because of their lack of sensitivity. For example, “S” is for Junipero Serra says: “Father Serra was a kind man and many people loved him.” This is not completely accurate, especially for California’s native people who are contesting his beatification and possible elevation to sainthood. In short, “C” is for California is a good attempt at bringing information about California to young readers, but it lacks in both content and format.

Fun, Facts and Games: California is a paperback activity book written by Julie Douglas and illustrated by Larry Nolte. This book is full of word searches, writing prompts, coloring pages and rhebus stories about California. Although these activities cover a wide spectrum of California history, wildlife, geography, and industry they lack in serious academic content. The activities are geared for students in second through fourth grade and would appeal to children who enjoy coloring books and dot to dots. However, this workbook is not a black-line master and cannot be duplicated, therefore its utility in the classroom is limited.