LaRue Across America: Postcards From the Vacation by Mark Teague. Blue Sky Press / Scholastic (March 2011); ISBN 9780439915021; 40 pages
Book Source: Review copy from publisher
"Dear Mrs. Hibbins,
My ship has sailed, and with it all hopes of a pleasant resolution to this unhappy saga. Traveling instead by car, we have left the coast far behind. I see now why the ship's captain, in his wisdom, refused to accept cats. The creatures simply do not travel well!"
With a name like LaRue, you're bound to hit the road on a cross-country adventure at least one or twice in your life. In LaRue Across America, the hilarious letter-writing pup, Ike LaRue is all ready for the perfect summer vacation -- a cruise to Mexico with his owner, Mrs. LaRue. Unfortunately, the neighbor lady ends up in the hospital and kindhearted Mrs. LaRue offers to take care of her two cats until she recovers.
The cats aren't allowed on the cruise ship, so Mrs. LaRue decides that a cross-country vacation across America is a nice alternative. Ike, not at all excited about the car trip with two cats, writes a series of desperate letters to Mrs. Hibbins during the trip, urging her to "end the fiasco" and take her cats back. The group departs from Snort City, N.Y., and they stop in several states (New York, Connecticut, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Arizona) before reaching Death Valley, California, an unfortunate place to visit in the middle of July. LaRue nearly gives up hope for a happy end to a "terrible journey."
Everyone that has endured a trip with bickering family members will be able to sympathize with Ike and the cats. The canine and felines fight over beds, cause disruptions at landmarks, and cheat at road games. Ike even pulls the "my side, your side" stunt by dividing the back seat with masking tape to mark territory. It's a classic cats versus dogs storyline, paired with some great illustrations by the talented Teague. All the images of the cats taunting Ike are super funny!
The book is also a bit educational as the endpapers depict a map of the U.S. and provide a way for readers to follow the madcap escapade across the mainland. While some of the places they visit are real like the Empire State Building and the Grand Canyon, many of the destinations are entirely fictitious, for reasons unclear. As far as I know, Bazooka, Wisconsin, does not exist and neither does Pea Gravel, South Dakota. While the names are funny, I would have preferred that Teague showcase more actual sights across America. There are plenty of bizarre destinations like Witches Gulch in Wisconsin Dells he could have worked into the story. I realize it's only meant to be humorous, but it seems Teague portrays the Midwest poorly in the book calling the Great Lakes "fraudulent" and making a stay in Wisconsin sound less than desirable. Plus, Madison, Wisconsin, is depicted a little too far east on the map in the book! Thankfully, Ike's clever, crafty letters are so much fun to read, it's hard to feel offended. That dog is quite an intellectual and a good dramatic writer, despite his selfish motives. Fans of the other LaRue series books will certainly enjoy Ike's newest adventure -- best for kindergarten on up.
I printed off a blank map of America for my daughter to color in as we read the book together. In total, Ike stops in 12 states. The book provided her with a fun way to explore our country and learn about the location of various states.
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