Book Review: Strange But True, America by John Hafnor

Did you know that sometime around 1914 a 4-year-old girl living in Idaho was mailed to her grandma’s house to save train fare? Or that camels once roamed the deserts of Arizona? What about the atom bomb that was accidentally dropped near Albuquerque in 1957? All of these “strange but true” facts can be found in a book that is part of the Strange But True series, Strange But True, America.

Written by John Hafnor and featuring illustrations by Dale Crawford, Strange But True, America features little known tales from all 50 states. The story from Louisiana, where I grew up, is about a giant logjam on the Red River that lasted for centuries. I already knew some pieces of that story, yet the details Hafnor weaves in made it even more interesting than I even realized. And the tale from Oregon, where I live now, is about Nike founders Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman. Again, I knew some of the details, but not the whole story presented in the book.

Other strange tales are highlighted in the back of the book, in sections about bombs and missiles accidentally going off in quite a few states and short tidbits from all around the country, such as the football game that inspired our first cheerleader and the eagle that was sent to encourage Civil War troops because his owner wasn’t able to fight.

Mother-daughter book club members can have fun identifying their favorite stories while learning something about the history of every state. Hafnor also provides a few more tales at his website, You can also get individual, collectible postcards for each state. Those may be fun to collect or send to friends and family who live in other parts of the country. I recommend it for girls aged 10 and up.

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