TAMPA — Where else can you feed nectar to lorikeets, taste a devil crab and see orphaned river otters?
The answer, from a new series called Cool Stuff Every Kid Should Know, is Tampa, where there are no large hills or mountains.
The books aim to help kids ages 7 to 11 learn local geography and history in a fun way.
So far, the series covers Atlanta, Buffalo, Charleston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, Orlando and Tampa. Fourteen more books on cities are due out in the spring, said author Kate Boehm Jerome.
The idea behind the easy reads is to encourage kids to explore interesting things in their own city and state.
To keep them interested, Jerome included plenty of pictures such as a loggerhead turtle, a dolphin and a dog. Each book starts with a section focused locally and pans out to the state.
Jerome has written more than 100 educational books. She decided to write the series after noticing that third- and fourth-graders writing school reports seemed unaware of the diversity in their own back yards.
"The premise of the series is that the places where you live and visit help shape who you become," she said.
She hopes the series will inspire field trips. Jerome has visited Tampa many times and loves the water and the views.
Her approach when writing is to look at a city from a kid's vantage point. She organized content under topics such as "strange but true" and "by the numbers" and "sights and sounds."
She incorporated land and history facts taught in Florida schools. She posed questions, which help kids focus, such as "Why were missions built?"
There are pictures of a panther-crossing sign and an alligator and oranges and strawberries.
"There's important stuff in there but hopefully we're disguising it in a way that's more palatable," she said.
Trivia buffs may take exception to her suggestion that the Bayshore Boulevard sidewalk stretches continuously from downtown Tampa to MacDill Air Force Base. Driveways and streets interrupt it from Gandy Boulevard south. And Jerome's inventory of city parks appears to be off: Tampa has 178, not 146, by official count. (Jerome, told of the sidewalk technicality, said future editions will correct that claim.)
She said kids who saw an early design of the book kept saying: That's cool!
Hence the name: Cool Stuff Every Kid Should Know.
Much of the cool stuff is drawn from regions outside Tampa.
Inside, there's a picture of the Castillo de San Marcos, built by the Spanish in St. Augustine, which is the oldest city in the United States, founded by Europeans in 1565.
Soon after, the Spanish settlers began building missions, which consisted of a church, village, workshops and fields.
The book explains the origin of Florida's name — "la Florida," in honor of Spain's Easter time feast of the flowers.
There's mention of the Ybor City neighborhood, named after Vicente Martinez Ybor. And a picture of a real moon rock at the South Florida Science Museum in West Palm Beach.
And an underwater Halloween pumpkin carving contest held annually in Key Largo.
"The thing I hear the most is that it's a conversational starter," Jerome said.
Elisabeth Parker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3431.