A VISIT TO WASHINGTON
By Jill Krementz
Scholastic. $13.95; ages 4-8
THE INSIDE-OUTSIDE BOOK OF WASHINGTON D.C.
By Roxie Munro
GUIDEBOOK FOR KIDS
By Carol Bluestone and
Noodle Press. 64 pp. $5.95
(P.O. Box 42542,
Washington, D.C. 20015)
JILL KREMENTZ is an immensely popular children's author and photographer whose books nevertheless bring out the devil in some parents, urging them irresistibly to parody. In her series for older children, A Very Young Dancer, A Very Young Rider, A Very Young Gymnast, and others, and in her board book series so beloved of toddlers, including Lily Goes to the Playground, Jack Goes to the Beach, Taryn Goes to the Dentist, Katharine Goes to Nursery School etc., life is a wonderfully happy affair in which children never fight or whine or cling or fall face-first in the mud, noses never run, the sun always shines and other people never drop trash on your part of the beach. Life is not like that for all of us. Yet as portraits of possibilities, of the ideal, harmonious, fun, creative lives we'd all like our children to be leading, these books have a cheerfully inspirational quality which children themselves find very attractive.
A Visit to Washington, D.C., Krementz's latest book, is of a piece with the others, featuring the same winning combination of spare text and the author's own beautifully composed photographs. In 48 full-color pages, 6-year-old Matt Wilson, accompanied by his parents and his little brother Cole, guides us around a sunny springtime/early summer capital, visiting all his favorite haunts, some better-known than others. Aside from wondering how come the Wilsons never run into any crowds or lines (in Washington? in the spring?), one finds it impossible to resist young Matt's knowledgeable enthusiasm about his native city: here are the Japanese cherry trees; the sad and the awe-inspiring memorials; the statues so amenable to climbing; the Botanic Gardens with their spectacular cacti; the brass-rubbing center at the Washington Cathedral; the fascinating nooks and crannies of the Smithsonian museums; and much more. The book's practical usefulness is enhanced by a list of addresses, phone numbers and open hours of the places visited, as well as clear endpaper maps.
A related but quite dissimilar book is Roxie Munro's The Inside-Outside Book of Washington, D.C. in which the brush takes over from the lens as the medium for a fresh look at this most familiar of cities. In line drawings washed with vivid watercolors, Munro does for Washington, D.C., what she did for the Big Apple two years ago in her acclaimed Inside-Outside Book of New York City. Depicting now the exterior, now the interior, of some of Washington's best-known places and institutions, she creates a personal vision of the city which is at once accurate, original and witty. Black umbrellas in the rain on the steps of the Supreme Court; turn the page for the sombre grandeur within (but note the nine Justices presiding like a row of sleepy mallards). Traffic claustrophobia as seen from inside a family car; turn the page to experience the crowded spaciousness of a Redskins-Cowboys game at RFK stadium. Great sheets of newsprint feeding off the presses at The Washington Post; turn the page for the salmon-skied quiet of early morning as newspapers hit the steps of city row-houses. These and many other fine illustrations make this a really lovely book. It also includes brief, but dense and informative, historical notes on each place shown.
A useful adjunct to either of these books is Carol Bluestone's and Susan Irwin's Washington, D.C. Guidebook for Kids (Noodle Press, P.O. Box 42542, Washington, D.C. 20015; $5.95 plus $1.00 postage and handling), first published in 1976 but long unavailable. Designed for children themselves -- jazzed up with a variety of intriguing games, puzzles, quizzes and the like -- the book is packed with information about the best places to go and the most interesting things to do in this activity-filled city. After three brief introductory chapters setting the historical and contemporary context of the city, the guide sensibly divides into two major sections -- "What to Explore First" and "What Else to Explore." In the first, besides such obvious places as the Smithsonian complex, the White House and the various monuments and memorials, the authors less predictably recommend Old Town, Alexandria, the F.B.I. building, Ford's Theater and the Library of Congress.
For jaded locals or vacationers heading into their second week, they suggest obscurer attractions ranging from the C&O Canal and the Capital Children's Museum to the National Geographic Explorer's Hall and Woodlawn Plantation. The book winds up with three coda-like chapters -- "What to Do Just for Fun" (Great Falls; the National Aquarium; Roosevelt Island; and the Zoo); "How to Get Around;" and, for budding photographers, "How to Take Better Pictures." ::
Elizabeth Ward writes frequently about children's books for Book World.