Recently Arlene and I have been talking about areas in Pennsylvania that we have not yet visited thanks to Pennsylvania ~ Here We Come! from the By the Way Book Series. Although this book, and the others currently available in the series are geared for younger children, Arlene and I wanted to check it out and see how the author, Joy Budensiek, combined her joy for travel with helping parents talk to their children about God's creation. We were intrigued!
Pennsylvania ~ Here We Come! fits in the tricky category between long picture books and short chapter books. In the story, the main characters Alex and Lexi have been granted the opportunity to tour the state of Pennsylvania as ambassadors for the statewide Fourth of July celebrations. This brother and sister duo travel with a tour guide, two pilots (they cover a lot of ground in three days,) and the state mascot "Penny," a lovable Great Dane. I call this category tricky because sometimes you want to fit so much in the book that the page gets a little over-busy from a visual standpoint, and yet, the story might flow better if the book were made a few pages longer and had more transitional sections from one scene to another, or was divided into short chapters.
Arlene and I both agreed that we like Mrs. Budensiek's plan of helping parents talk to their children about God through the story and all the natural wonders and wildlife the children encounter in the story. What we both struggled with was the execution of the plan. We both felt like this book could have used one more time past an editor to make the story flow more smoothly. It is not poorly written, it just seems choppy at times.
For parents who want a resource that can help them introduce the topics of God and His Creation for discussions with their children or grandchildren, this book could be a valuable tool. Our suggestion is that instead of trying to read it all at once like a picture book, that the family reads one section of the story of Alex and Lexi's travels at a time. By focusing on just one section of the story at a time, the choppiness is less obvious. This tactic would make it more of a travel book for kids, and less of a traditional picture book format.
Along their travels, Alex and Lexi meet with representatives from each town or park area they visit. At times, this makes the list of character names you are trying to remember seem rather long for a children's book. It also makes it hard sometimes to remember they have a chaperone, Angela, with them as well as their pilot and co-pilot, Jim and Hugh.
There are many things we did like about the book. There are several "Did You Know?" sections that include facts about the local wildlife in the area they are visiting. Scripture verses are liberally sprinkled throughout the book, as references from both the children and people they encounter. These often come up as "this makes me think about the verse _____" comments during their travels. The photography in the book is fantastic, and the variety of places they visit on their trip is a good balance of well known, and lesser-known locations.
Overall we give Pennsylvania ~ Here We Come! a solid B. Since it is book 3 in the series, I am hopeful that Mrs. Budensiek's writing continues to improve and the later titles have a better flow.
There are currently five other titles in the By the Way Book Series:
Florida's Treasure Coast ~ Here We Come!
Smokey Mountains ~ Here We Come!
Ohio ~ Here We Come!
Washington ~ Here We Come!
Colorado ~ By the Way
Four more books are scheduled to be added to the series during 2017: Ireland, New York, Idaho, and Indiana.
Various members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reading from the six titles currently available. Click on the banner below to read all the reviews.
You can find more from the By the Way Book Series on their Facebook page