Geography Studies from a Christian Worldview: By the Way Book Series ~ New York City {Review}

There is so much to explore in the world around us. Every country and state has something unique to offer, and there are plenty of learning opportunities to go around. I like to make geography lessons fun and engaging, especially with having a younger child, so we rely on a lot of maps, globes, and crafts to make it interesting. Reading books, especially those that contain a lot of information and imagery, are a huge component to all of our lessons. One collection that I've grown such a fondness for is the By the Way Book Series. Just recently, we had the chance to read Book 8, New York City, from By the Way.

If you have been following my blog since last year, then you may remember my post about our first experience with the By the Way Book Series when we had the chance to read Florida's Treasure Coast ~ Here We Come. We enjoyed that book quite a bit, so we were really excited to have the opportunity to read one of the latest releases in the series.

Currently there are ten volumes in the By the Way Book Series:

  • Florida's Treasure Coast
  • Smoky Mountains
  • Pennsylvania State
  • Ohio State
  • Washington State
  • Colorado State
  • Ireland
  • New York City
  • Alaska
  • Indiana

New York City ~ By the Way had actually been on my radar since last year when I'd originally learned about its upcoming release. While we currently live in Upstate New York, I personally grew up just a stone's throw away from New York City, so I had spent a lot of time there when I was younger. At my current age, I prefer more of a quieter way of life, but I remember how much I enjoyed the Big Apple in my younger years, the baseball games, how Times Square lit up at night, visits to the top of the Empire States Building, all of those museums (The Museum of Natural History is still my favorite!), and of course day trips to feed the ducks at Central Park and visit their zoo. Yes, I do have fond memories of the place. It's been a while since I've been there, but that area is such a part of my past, I thought it would be fun to show my son some of the sights and wonders of New York City through this book. It's not all about skyscrapers, either! One of the things that I enjoy so much about New York City ~ By the Way is that the author, Joy Budensiek, really encompasses plenty of the unique experiences and sights that can sometimes be easily overlooked.

The By the Way Book Series is not a textbook. It offers a fictional story with non-fiction facts and information, along with plenty of illustrations, but it's not just a picture book, either. Each book, offers a comprehensive glimpse into a specific geographical area, exploring its history, culture, natural habitats, along with a little bit of this and that in between. One of the neat things about the books we've read in this series is that they actually make you feel as though you're right there alongside the characters, experiencing and learning about the area just as they are. The series is really great at immersing readers right into the story.

Every book in the series has a sturdy hardcover exterior, and offers full-color interior pages that include vibrant imagery and photographs of real places, animals, landmarks, etc. New York City ~ By the Way includes Alex and Lexi, the same fictional characters that we remember from Florida's Treasure Coast ~ Here We Come, as well as a few additional characters that are personally new to us. All of the children are part of a youth group, and they're gearing up to take a three-day trip to New York City, along with their pastor and teacher.

The Pastor has everything planned out for the children for the next few days, including a trip to Ellis Island, a visit to the Statue of Liberty, dinner in Chinatown, and plenty of ferry and subway excursions. 

One of my favorite features of this book is that it's offered from a Christian worldview. There are plenty of Biblical references throughout the book, including scripture and topics of discussion on Christian character. For example, there's a day on the trip when the children say a prayer asking God to help them be a blessing to someone else on that day. Shortly after, one of the children demonstrates what it means to show kindness to each other as he helps a lady and her child. The children soon realize that God had answered their prayers and begin to realize that even the smallest acts of goodness can be a huge blessing to someone. Pastor Jay then mentions, "...sharing in the small moments of life is probably the best 'preaching' we can do." There are plenty of great talking points about Godly character throughout the book, but this particular moment led to an excellent reminder about being kind to others. Of course, this became an important discussion starter for my son and I.

Another way in which this book helps engage younger readers is through a fun search and find activity that's offered in the beginning. There is a selection of small photos shown on one page and children are offered the challenge of trying to locate these pictures throughout the many pages of the book. We had a lot of fun taking part in this little extra activity, which also helps build observation skills.

There is just so much to include when writing about a geographical location, in this case New York City. While it may be impossible to include everything, the author had done an incredible job at encompassing the many facets of New York City. While most of the focus is on Manhattan Island, the children do take several trips to other boroughs, including Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. I thought it was neat that the author actually added in facts about the city's 175 zip codes. When the kids visit Ellis Island and the United Nations, there are also some discussions on diversity, and God's desire for us to love one another.

"Like the little kid's song says, 'Red and yellow, black and white (with every shade in between) we are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children (and everyone else) of the world.'"
~ New York City ~ By the Way

My son enjoyed learning that there is still plenty of wildlife hidden in the big hustle and bustle of the city. He's heard me previously mention both the Central Park Zoo and Bronx Zoo, but he soon learned that wildlife can also be found in and around various other parts of the city. He also learned about all of the various trees and plant life growing in this area, and even a little bit about urban rooftop gardening.

Bridges, subways, giant goldfish living in a Central Park pond, famous landmarks (Battery Park, USS Intrepid, 9/11 Memorial, Statue of Liberty, etc.), and historic places of worship throughout the city– there is just so much information to learn about in New York City ~ By the Way. I even learned a thing or two (or three...four) from this book, and let's just say, I will never look at pigeons the same way, again. I do mean that in a good way! Really, each book in the By the Way Book Series is a treasure trove of information. This collection is becoming one of my favorite resources for geography studies. There is so much to take in and you really feel as though you're right there visiting the area with the characters in the book.

By the Way Book Series: New York City, Ireland, Indiana & Alaska {By the Way Reviews}

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