|Grades:||4 - 8|
|Guided Reading Level:||Z|
o New dynamic design and updated text and statistics
o "Project Room" feature offers ideas for standards-based school assignments
o Freshly designed TOC with visual annotations immediately engages readers
o Primary sources appear throughout with explanations of what they are and how to cite them
o Author's Tips and Source Notes
o Content-area vocabulary words defined on page
o New features such as "Weird Laws", WOW Factor, and "Picture Yourself" make ATB3 a standout in state series books.
o Includes original art, full-color photography, words to know, FAQs, mini-bios, interactive sidebars, maps, and graphs
Eight years after its last revision, the longtime library staple America the Beautiful has recently released its new Third Series. A close look at two representative titles in the series, California and Illinois, both fully rewritten by new authors, reveals changes that range from cosmetic to substantial.
The most obvious is the new design, starting with striking covers that set off vibrant photos against white backgrounds. Illinois, for instance, shows an impressive Chicago cityscape, then lists sites that include Lake Michigan and the Cahokia Mounds. It's attractive, although it looks a little like a tourism brochure.
Moving on to the interior spreads, the new layout is more than just attractive-it's also effective. By allowing text to wrap around silhouetted artwork and bleeding photos out to the edge of the pages, the space in each book is used to the maximum. What the books lose in spacious, white margins they gain in increased layout flexibility, which allows visual information to appear in especially close proximity to textual information. In Illinois, for example, one finds a small picture of an old farming tool directly alongside its main-text description.
And in what is possibly the series' single best change, words that students may not understand are printed in a bold, indigo typeface and defined in the margin. A student on the hunt for facts to plug into a report normally will not bother to look up a word, but if the definition is right there, he or she just might take the time to read it. A more traditional glossary is appended, too.
Another useful formatting change is the placement of illustrated time lines at the beginning of each of four history chapters, instead of relegating them to the back matter. California's time line, for instance, starts with the "First People" chapter in 28,000 BCE and finishes with the "More Modern Times" chapter in the year 2007, with a picture of Nancy Pelosi. Each chapter also includes its own table of contents, another nice way of positioning relevant material where it's needed most.
Beyond the time lines, each book's coverage of history has been expanded by a chapter and supported with lots more illustrations. Notable people are given greater exposure, too. While the previous editions mentioned a few significant figures in the main text, then listed them at the back, the new series format sprinkles numerous "Mini-Bio" boxes throughout. This feature is sure to be welcomed by students hunting for a native son or daughter to profile in a state studies report.
Kids who appreciate trivia will like two nifty new features: "WOW Factor" and "FAQ" sidebars. These highlight interesting tidbits, such as "Illinois leads the nation in pumpkin production," or provide answers to questions like "How big is the famous Hollywood sign?" Last but not least, the back matter preserves previous features, like lists of professional sports teams and a biographical index, but now also includes a creative selection of project ideas in writing, art, and science.
Most students should be able to satisfy their information needs with these polished new editions, and the copious extras and lively presentation will help keep them interested, too.