I've been eyeball deep in selecting books for this coming school year and since I'm (part) Dutch, I'm (part) (cheap) frugal, so I'm going through our curriculum's book lists to see what I can get at the library and what we ought to purchase.
One item on the list: The Everything American Presidents Book by Kelly and Kelly. I've read some from the Everything series before, and while they're interesting and all, they're graphically pretty spare. A quick perusal on Amazon proved there are gajillions of books about US presidents. Surely one could be more visually appealing. Right?
I found what looked like the perfect alternative. Our Country's Presidents by Ann Bausum. Put out by National Geographic, this one was sure to be better. Right? I decided to check out both from the library to see.
Sure enough, the National Geographic book was beautiful. Stunning illustrations, sharp layout. I added the book to my Amazon shopping cart and moved on to the next item.
Then this morning I wondered ... why would the authors of my curriculum recommend the Everything book when the National Geographic book is so obviously superior? Unless it's not. Hmmm.
I did an experiment (pretty smart of me). I read (even smarter!) the section on George Washington in the Natl. Geographic book. And THEN (wait for it - it's really smart) I read the section on George Washington in the Everything book.
Here's what the Natl. Geographic book said: Ooh, pretty pictures, let's see, bla bla bla, George Washington, bla bla bla. Something about his wife. Bla bla bla, and he died of strep throat.
The Everything book: Wow, Washington's mother was rot; so he didn't actually cut down a cherry tree! And he didn't have wooden dentures. So that's how he inherited Mount Vernon! Plus he came to believe slavery was immoral and was the only founding father to free all his slaves.
So Natl. Geographic with the dry tone of textbook is going out of the shopping cart, the Everything Book is, well, why don't I just get it from the library? One thing is certain: the curriculum writers really did choose the better book.