What’s that? You want kids to learn about history and math and science and all that other stuff, and you want them to have fun at the same time? And you’d also like it to be free? Well, guess what? We at the New Jersey Center for the Book think we can help you out….
Meet the New Jersey Trackers—six smart and fearless youngsters from all walks of life who have a relentless curiosity about the world and an insatiable appetite for adventure. Along with Mr. C—librarian, book-club director, and the Trackers’ fearless leader (not to mention the token responsible adult in every story so parents don’t get all bumfuzzled)—find themselves in fantastic, incredible, amazing, and some might even say entirely fictional situations where the main objective is to figure out just what the heck’s going and how the heck do we get out of it in one piece…?! Along the way, the gang relies on the unique talents and perspective that each character brings into the equation. And if they get an education at the same time—elements of which might even coincidentally adhere to curriculum standards—all the better!
Every story in the series features some of New Jersey finest publishing talents, with a general rule of one author and one illustrator per chapter. As such, Jill Mills, New Jersey Association of School Librarians, had this to say—
“New Jersey is rich with history and mystery, and amazing authors and illustrators who weave tales of each. The New Jersey Center for the Book brought together some of the state’s best writers for children to create two exciting stories that first take us all over the state and then throughout history to preserve the power of ideas and imagination. My students have loved hearing these stories as much as I have loved sharing them.”
The Trackers series was inspired by similar work at the Connecticut Humanities Council and at the Library of Congress. We adapted the concept to use New Jersey authors and illustrators and focus as much as possible on topics related to New Jersey, it’s history and sites, and the school curriculum. The NJCTB was fortunate to have two children’s authors and illustrators on our Board, and they were able with their enthusiasm and contacts to find others interested and willing to write and illustrate our series. Our first book in the series, the New Jersey Trackers and the Imagination Tree was released in March 2016 with one chapter every week. This provided opportunities for teachers to discuss the book and create anticipation and curiosity on the part of the students. It was a huge success.
The second story, The Greatest Mystery in all of History, was released in November 2018. In the second adventure the Trackers and the imperturbable Mr. C are teleported to the colonial era where they take the first step in a journey that introduces them to some of America’s most powerful historical characters. At the same time, they learn more about the nation’s past than they would have ever believed – including one lesson that might be the most important of all.