Book Review: Part-time Steamboat author’s book one to pick up for kids
August 2, 2014
Meet the author and illustrator from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore in downtown Steamboat Springs.
“Dear Class — Traveling Around the World with Mrs. J”
By Jane J. Stein, Illustrated by Pamela A. Duckworth
Montview Press, 81 pages
For ages 5 and above
What do Steamboat Springs and Washington, D.C., have in common? Well, Jane Stein, of course. Even though she spends time in both places, we still claim her as a local. Her contributions to our community are important and numerous, but I want to tell you about her most recent project.
Jane's mother was an enthusiastic world traveler. And, while Jane often accompanied her, it was the stories of her mother's grand tour around the world that inspired her to write this wonderful book for her grandchildren and really for all of our children.
Each chapter is a treasure box, full of discoveries relating to a new country. This is not a typical geography picture book for children. And it is surely not one that will sit on any shelf for long.
Ms. Stein tells her story from the viewpoint of teacher, Mrs. J, who sends frequent and extensive letters back to her class while she travels the world. Each chapter covers one or more countries and there are 11 wonderful chapters.
The unique quality of the book, however, is the rich detail included about each of Mrs. J's stops. Each page is richly illustrated with watercolors from Pamela A. Duckworth, another local talent. She used some of Stein's personal archived photographs for inspiration, so it is not surprising that the author's mother makes many appearances as Mrs. J.
Children, teachers and parents are introduced to each country by one of Mrs. J's engaging letters home to her students, text describing typical details about the locale, an "If You Go To…" section, a Fun Fact list, plus a word game or recipe relating to the country. There is even an "Online Tour" at the end of each chapter for those who want more information.
Examples include: If you go to Paris, which museum would you visit? And, here is how you make a Croque Monseur! If you go to Italy, would you eat pizza or gelato first? Would you ever want to go to a bullfight in Spain? Here is how you make a Rangoli Design, like you would see in India. If you want an online tour of the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, follow this link.
As an owner and principal buyer for my bookstore, I see educational and exciting books for children every week. Publisher's reps are eager to show me their newest offerings. But, I am not jaded. My meeting with Jane Stein left me in a near evangelical state to spread the word. This book should be in every classroom, every library and every home with children. Am I being too strong? Absolutely not!
Susan Krall is the co-owner of Off the Beaten Path Bookstore.
These books are available at the Bud Werner Memorial Library and at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore; e-books can be found at http://www.steamboatbooks.com.