'The 50 States': 50 surprising facts from an engaging, trivia-stuffed, oversized tome

I've never been good at geography, not even United States geography. Those states beginning with vowels located in the center of the country trip me up every time.

I think part of my problem with geography not sticking in my brain is because it was never presented to me in a fun, memorable manner. A book I recently received free for review, though, is fun, is memorable, and is all about the 50 states—even those midwest ones that begin with I's and O's and are situated beneath and between two that begin with M.

The book is aptly titled The 50 States: Explore the U.S.A. with 50 fact-filled maps!, written and researched by Gabrielle Balkan and lavishly—and whimsically—illustrated by Sol Linero. This is the kind of book that encourages kids to learn and remember maps and more, the kind of book that makes a perfect family gift (and school report resource).

the 50 states 

In addition to colorful, informative front and back inside covers...

the 50 states

plus a spread of all U.S. presidents and a "how to use this book" page...

the 50 states

...The 50 States features a two-page spread for every state in the U.S. Like this one, for my state:

colorado the 50 states

Each spread includes a simple (not to scale) map of the state, plus iconlike images of local monuments, wildlife, famous residents, structures and more. Fun stuff that kids will remember, that adults will appreciate when dazzling friends and family with trivia tidbits.

The trivia, to be honest, is what I most enjoy, so below I share offbeat tidbits from each state, directly from The 50 States (ages 7+, $30, publishing October 1, 2015). Let the dazzling begin!

ALABAMA Unclaimed Baggage Center: This Scottsboro secondhand store sells skis, iPads, guitars, and other oddball things, all left behind at airports.

ALASKA Snowiest Spot: A record-breaking 81 feet of snow once fell in just one year at Thompson Pass.

ARIZONA London Bridge: In 1968 the founder of Lake Havasu City transported the 1831 London Bridge to Arizona, all the way from England!

ARKANSAS Lake Ouachita: is one of the cleanest lakes in the country, and is home to rare freshwater jellyfish. Don't worry...they don't sting!

CALIFORNIA National Yo-Yo Museum: Find one of the world's biggest yo-yos here: it's called Big-Yo, it's over  feet wide, and it can only be played with a crane!

COLORADO Big Band: Glenn Miller started his first band with high school classmates in Fort Morgan.

CONNECTICUT Know-It-All: More than 500 brains are on display at Yale University's Cushing Library!

DELAWARE First Flag: The first U.S. flag ever to fly was during the Battle of Cooch's Bridge, September 3, 1777, during Delaware's only Revolutionary War skirmish.

FLORIDA Circus Class: Florida State University is one of only two colleges that offer circus lessons!

GEORGIA Chicken Capital: A 1961 Gainesville law forbids eating chicken with a fork!

HAWAII Amazing Maze: The Dole pineapple plantation is home to an almost 2-mile-long maze: the largest in the world!

IDAHO Cataldo Mission: See the state's oldest standing building, which was built without nails!

ILLINOIS Fermilab: Bison keep the lawn tidy outside this important physics lab.

INDIANA The Big Brain: This 7-foot-tall model at Indiana University is the largest anatomically correct model brain in the world!

IOWA This state produces a tenth of America's food!

KANSAS Dodge City is officially the windiest city an the U.S.

KENTUCKY The 15th state has more miles of running water than any state except Alaska.

LOUISIANA The Evangeline Oak: is one of the most photographed trees in the world, and an inspiration for Longfellow's poem, Evangeline.

MAINE Maine State House: The architect of the state house also designed the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

MARYLAND In the 17th century, Mistress Margaret Brent was America's first female lawyer, first female landowner, and first female taxpayer.

MASSACHUSETTS The historic sixth state was home to America's first public basketball game in 1891.

MICHIGAN Wherever you are in Michigan, you're not more than 6 miles from the nearest body of water.

MINNESOTA Aerial Lift Bridge: This 110-year-old brdge is raised 135 feet some 25 times a day to let tall boats pass underneath.

MISSISSIPPI The Teddy Bear: was invented after President Teddy Roosevelt refused to shoot an injured bear near Onward.

MISSOURI The Home of Sliced Bread: is Chillicothe, where Otto Rohwedder designed his 5-foot-long slicing machine in 1928.

MONTANA Berkeley Pit: This former copper mine now houses a lake so toxic it could kill you.

NEBRASKA Monowi: The sole resident of this town is also its mayor, librarian, and bartender!

NEVADA Duck Decoys: In 1924 nearly a dozen 2,000-year-old duck models were found in Lovelock Cave. They were probably used by hunters to attract real ducks.

NEW HAMPSHIRE America's Stonehenge (near Manchester): These mysterious stone structures may be an ancient calendar, a colonial root cellar, or a tourist-trapping hoax!

NEW JERSEY Lucy The Elephant: In 1881 the U.S. Patent Office granted inventor James Lafferty the right to make animal-shaped building for 17 years. His first creation, Lucy, still stands in Margate, Atlantic City.

NEW MEXICO New Mexico has the lowest water-to-land ratio of all 50 states: lakes and rivers cover just 0.002% of it!

NEW YORK New York City is one of the only places where the price of a slice of pizza and the cost of a single ride on the subway have been equal for over 50 years!

NORTH CAROLINA Soccer Superstar: Soccer star Mia Hamm started a bone marrow foundation in Chapel Hill in memory of her brother.

NORTH DAKOTA The Square Dance: is North Dakota's official folk dance.

OHIO Hocking Hills: Local legend has it that the churning waters of the Devil's Bathtub are so deep they reach all the way down to Hades.

OKLAHOMA Showmen's Rest: The Mount Olivet Cemetery has a special section for circus performers who would spend the winter in the town of Hugo.

OREGON Flip A Coin: Two pioneers founded Portland: one from Boston, MA, and one from Portland, ME. They flipped a coin to decide the name of the city.

PENNSYLVANIA A Fork In The Road: Literally. A 9-foot dinner fork stands at an intersection in Centerport.

RHODE ISLAND Betsey's Bonnet: In 1786 12-year-old Betsey Metcalf made hat-making history with her inexpensive straw hat, launching the American straw hat industry.

SOUTH CAROLINA Cotton Museum: In Bishopville, find out that a dollar bill is 75% cotton.

SOUTH DAKOTA Honeybee: South Dakota is one of the U.S.'s top honey producers, and the honeybee is the official state insect!

TENNESSEE Flying Saucer House: Spend your vacation in an out-of-this-world house on Signal Mountain.

TEXAS Tree Sculpture Trail: Chainsaw sculptors in Galveston have transformed trees destroyed by Hurricane Ike into works of art.

UTAH Saltair: When this "Coney Island of the West" opened in 1893, bathers could rent suits for a quarter.

VERMONT No Big Macs in Montpelier: The country's smallest capital city is the only one without a McDonald's!

VIRGINIA More Civil War battles were fought on Virginia's soil than in any other state.

WASHINGTON The nation's 42nd state has the longest floating bridge in the world and the largest building in the world (the aircraft factory in Everett).

WEST VIRGINIA Mother's Day: was first celebrated in 1908 in Grafton, where there is now a shrine.

WISCONSIN American Ginseng: is used in herbal medicine. About 95% of the country's crop is grown in Marathon County.

WYOMING The Original Wyomingites: The Shoshone Indians were one of the first tribes in the region to own and ride horses.

WASHINGTON, D.C. Busboys And Poets: This bookstore and arts venue in Adams Morgan takes its name from poet Langston Hughes, who once worked as a busboy.

Disclosure: I received the source book free for review; opinions are my own.

Today's question:

What's an interesting tidbit about your state that most folks may not know?