Tulip Sees America by Cynthia Rylant, Illustrated by Lisa Desimini
I love how this book celebrates beauty and showcases a few of america's various landscapes. The main character begins by saying, " When I was a boy, I didn't see much of America. My parents were homebodies, so I stayed home. But when I grew up, I knew I was different. I wanted to see America." So he buys a little green Volkswagen Beetle, packs a bag, and with his dog Tulip, drives off to see America. (Who hasn't dreamed of packing up all you own and driving across the country? I was intrigued immediately, but wasn't sure what Juliet would think of it.)
The boy and his dog leave Ohio and start driving through Iowa. Having never been to Iowa, I have no concept of what it is like. Before reading this book I would have said, "Iowa? What's that? Why would anyone ever go to Iowa?" (sorry, Iowa.) But after reading this book, I am intrigued. He says, "The farms in Iowa. They are pictures: White houses. Red roofs. Green, green rolling hills and black garden soil all around them. Farms like castles in a fairyland, serene in the morning fog. There are no farms like Iowas." Wow. Maybe Iowa is not so bad after all.
He continues his travels through nebraska--no sky's like nebraska's--wyoming--no wind like wyoming's, colorado--no mountain's like colorado's (I know he's telling the truth on this one, having lived there for several years.) Then he gets to Nevada and here is where I learn that Juliet is really into the book, too. The boy is standing in the middle of the desert and Juliet points to the lone cactus on the page. "What's that, mama?" she asks me. "oh, that's a cactus." We turn the page to find that the main character has taken off his clothes and is now running butt-naked through the desert. (very tasteful--just a naked bum--nothing crazy.) The only thing Juliet has to say about this page is, "hey, there's another cactus." Naked man running through desert? Not interesting at ALL. Saguaro Cactus? Now that deserves a second look.
Next stop is Oregon. Tulip and his master are driving through the forest until suddenly, it breaks open and there is the ocean--no ocean's like Oregon's. Tulip frolics in the waves and the book ends with the words, "and this is where we stayed."
Really good. Really beautiful. You gotta read it.