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Kids can take an armchair trip with ‘National Parks Guide U.S.A.’

You already called your seat.

Driver’s side, second row, right by the finest view of the road. It’s the best place for wind in your hair, sun on your face and the vacation of your life: This year, you’re going on a ride, and with “National Parks Guide U.S.A.” by National Geographic Kids, you’ll make the most out of your time.

Imagine what the United States looked like four centuries ago.

You’d probably see tall grasses, wild animals, huge trees and mountains. The good news is that you’ll see those exact things — looking just as early Americans saw them — in the over 84-million acres we call our National Parks.

Wow. Why do we have so much parkland?

A hundred years ago, President Theodore Roosevelt “made it his mission” to preserve as much natural land as possible, “so that future generations could enjoy” it. So what’s your family interested in seeing this summer? Do you like history or hiking? Swimming or soldiers? Animals or American statues? You’ll find them all in parks — and you’ll find them in this book.

Starting on the east side of the country, you can visit Mammoth Cave in Kentucky and see what’s underground. You can tour the Everglades in Florida or bathe in a hot spring in Arkansas. In the Midwest, the Badlands aren’t bad at all for hiking. You can also thank Roosevelt personally by visiting his National Park in North Dakota. Visit the world’s longest cave in South Dakota, go whitewater rafting at a national park in Texas or look for desert animals in New Mexico. And you can’t, of course, miss the Grand Canyon! It’s amazing.

In the West, there are forests to see and lots of spooky sites. There’s Glacier National Park in Montana to roam; you can hike Denali in Alaska, see whales in Washington or visit a volcano in Hawaii.

Don’t forget your binoculars. And don’t forget this book!

So you say you’re plagued by “AreWeThereYet-AreWeThereYet-AreWeThereYet” on every vacation? You can minimize that — maybe eliminate it — by securing a copy of “National Parks Guide U.S.A. ” before you even leave.

There’s a lot of goodness packed into 176 pages here: Kids can learn about the wildlife they might encounter at each park listed. They’ll get stats on the park, including size and a website, so they can sleuth more info themselves. There are ranger tips here, hints on resting and picnicking, and tips for relaxing and taking in the scenery. For kids who are fit and super active, this book includes “extreme” fun they might find and extra activities they can do.

There are chapters on packing, specifics on animals and endangered creatures, info on unusual monuments and sculptures to visit near the parks and, as you’d expect from the National Geographic folks, dozens and dozens of full-color pictures.

For 7- to 13-year-olds, that makes for a perfect book to keep them happy during your vacation and to serve as a nice keepsake. Before heading out, therefore, find “National Parks Guide U.S.A. ” Your kids will call it “awesome.”

View publishes Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of books for children weekly.

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