Saturday, July 04, 2009

Greetings From the 50 States: How They Got Their Names

Keenan, Sheila. 2008. Greetings From the 50 States: How They Got Their Names. Illustrated by Selina Alko. Scholastic. 112 pages.

I'll be honest. I didn't know what to expect from this one. Would it be boring? Or would it--could it--possibly be entertaining? I was pleasantly surprised by this one. It was informative no doubt about it. But it was charming and well-done. I think this is in large-part due to its straight-forwardness. It's conversational tone. What is the book about? Well, it's about how each of the fifty states came by their names (and nicknames too!). Some stories are more interesting than others. Some states have a more colorful history when it comes to what is in a name. You are probably aware of some of these stories--the states named after royals and the like. But chances are a few of these stories will be new to you. What I loved about this one was how it makes good use of primary sources.

Here's a sample entry:

There oughta be a law about Arkansas -- and there is!
In the 19th century, you'd probably say you were from ARkanSAW, but your fellow Americans would claim you hailed from ArKANSAS. Even Arkansas's two U.S. senators couldn't agree on where they came from.
Phonics and spelling saved the day! In 1881, the state legislature passed a bill that declared the state's name would be spelled Arkansas, but pronounced "Arkinsaw."
The original confusion shows what happens when French-speaking explorers tangle with tribal names. In the 17th century, the French met up with native people who lived west of the Mississippi River. They called themselves the Ugakhpa or "those going downstream;" Quapaw was also used; and Algonquian speakers called them Arkansas meaning "south wind." The explorers wrote down the Indian names as they heard them -- and of course, they were writing in French. At one time, there were around 70 variations, from Arkansea to Acansa. (17)

Overall, I liked it! It's reader-friendly and fun. What a concept--history as a fun subject!

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a cute idea for a book. I'd always wondered why arkansas is pronounced the way it was. I'm curious to see how Wisconsin got it's name.

Rebecca said...

Sounds like quite a fascinating book. History is always interesting.

Becky said...

Ruinedbyreading, Wisconsin had an interesting little story behind its name. One of the more interesting ones in the book.