Book teaches facts about Maryland in a two-tier format

October 22, 2004|by Lisa Tedrick Prejean

We were going to participate in a hike along the C&O Canal in Williamsport last weekend, but Saturday's wet, chilly weather changed those plans.

It was a particular disappointment to the 9-year-old in our household. Like other fourth-graders across the state, he's learning about Maryland history and geography. His new-found knowledge of the C&O has raised his curiosity about the regional landmark. Never mind that we've played countless soccer games at River Bottom Park in Williamsport, just a stone's throw from the canal. Now that he has a basic knowledge of the canal's history, he seems to have developed an attachment to it.

As we were filling water bottles and gathering jackets that morning, he nonchalantly commented, "It's too bad that we can't hike all the way from Georgetown to Cumberland."

Yeah. That's a shame, I thought, as visions of blisters moved me to change the subject.

Actually, I appreciate his enthusiasm and his teacher's efforts.


Learning is a lot easier when the information is interesting.

For example, did you know that Maryland was named in honor of Queen Henrietta Maria, who wed England's King Charles I when she was in her teens? After granting territory in the New World to Lord Baltimore, King Charles suggested that the territory be named after the queen. The charter for the new territory was written in Latin, and referred to the new territory as Terra Mariae , Latin for "Land of Mary."

How Maryland got its name is just one of many state-related stories recounted in "B is for Blue Crab: A Maryland Alphabet" by Shirley C. Menendez, with illustrations by Laura Stutzman.

The book is written in a two-tier format. Preschoolers can identify with vibrant illustrations and rhyming verses that match each letter of the alphabet. Factual information listed on each featured object or place may catch the eye of older elementary students.

"I had a lot of fun writing this book," Menendez says. "There's so much to learn about the state and so much to do. I hope students might pick up on the facts and do additional research."

Menendez offers easy-to-understand explanations, such as how to tell a male blue crab from a female crab: "It looks like the females paint their fingernails because they have bright red claw tips."

There's a quiz at the back of the book. See how you do on these sample questions:

1. What are the colors in the Maryland state flag?

2. Name two ships that brought early settlers to Maryland's shores.

3. What is the name of the sailboat used to dredge for oysters in the Chesapeake Bay?

4. Which Colts football player was called the "Greatest Quarterback of All-Time"?

5. Where can you find the blue crab?

Answers: 1. Red, white, black and gold. 2. Ark, Dove. 3. Skipjack. 4. Johnny Unitas. 5. In the Chesapeake Bay.

How'd you do? 4 to 5 correct? You deserve a crab cake dinner. 0 to 1 correct? Perhaps you need to spend some time with a fourth-grader this year.

"B is for Blue Crab: A Maryland Alphabet" is part of the Discover America series of picture books published by Sleeping Bear Press. For more information, go to on the Web. Laura Stutzman, the book's illustrator, will be at Borders Books and Cafe, 17636 Garland Groh Boulevard, in Hagerstown Saturday, Nov. 6, at 2 p.m. for a booksigning. For information, call the store at 301-745-5897.

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