FELIKS BANEL

All Over The Map: New Seattle history book for kids recalled by publisher

Nov 12, 2021, 8:22 AM
Seattle book...
A brand-new book for kids all about Seattle is being recalled by the publisher to correct a number of errors. (Feliks Banel/KIRO Radio)
(Feliks Banel/KIRO Radio)

It’s a twisted tale of a brand-new book for kids all about Seattle, which is being recalled by the publisher just a week after it was released.

KIRO Radio regularly receives copies of new books from publishers seeking promotional assistance. A new book arrived last week called “Super Cities! Seattle: The Space Needle, Pike Place, a Salmon Ladder, and More.” The cover said it was about “history, people and culture,” and listed James Buckley Jr. as the author.

“Super Cities! Seattle” is from a big publisher in Charleston, South Carolina, called Arcadia Publishing, which has issued hundreds of history books focused on communities and specialized topics around the United States. Particularly popular is Arcadia’s “Images of America” series, which features photos and descriptive text about all kinds of different locations and topics, including dozens of titles about the Pacific Northwest. The “Super Cities!” series is new as of Nov. 1, 2021; in addition to Seattle, similar books for Houston, Chicago, San Francisco and Portland were released at the beginning of the month.

On first glance, the book is sweet, and seems to be aimed at kids in their early elementary school years. It’s also colorful, with dozens of images, and it looks like something a kindly grandmother would dutifully buy for the edification and entertainment of her grandchild.

Unfortunately, even though it looks nice, a quick read of “Super Cities! Seattle” reveals multiple mistakes, ranging from spelling errors, to incorrect names, to inaccurate dates for local historic events, to some statements that are just downright wrong.

Among the most troubling errors is a paragraph about aerospace giant Boeing.

“Look! Up in the sky! It’s something built in Seattle! Well, Tacoma, anyway,” the paragraph reads, the author perhaps confusing Pierce County’s premier city with the true Western Washington Boeing manufacturing centers of Everett and Renton.

In the section about sports, it says that the Seattle Seahawks joined the NFL in 1977 – it was actually 1976 – and it gets the dates of the team’s Super Bowl appearances wrong – which were in 2006, 2014, and, painfully, in 2015 (next time, please just give the ball to Marshawn).

“Super Cities! Seattle” says that the Space Needle opened in 1961, when it was actually 1962, the same year as the World’s Fair. In multiple places, the name of the Suquamish Tribe is misspelled as “Squamish” – perhaps confusing the Puget Sound tribe with the similarly spelled First Nation in British Columbia.

In a section about early Seattle history, the city’s founder Arthur Denny is said to have “sailed north up Puget Sound” on his way to what’s now Alki. Denny and friends actually sailed south into Puget Sound from the Strait of Juan de Fuca exactly 170 years ago this weekend, by the way.

Perhaps the worst of the errors come in a paragraph about the SR 520 floating bridge.

“The Evergreen Floating Bridge is the longest one of these in the world! It stretches 15,580 feet between Bellevue and Kirkland.”

For those keeping score, this paragraph gets the name wrong (the correct name is “Evergreen Point Floating Bridge”); the length wrong (the floating section is 7,710 feet); and the endpoints wrong (Medina to Seattle).

Fortunately, this twisted tale now appears to have a new chapter, and maybe even a happy ending.

KIRO Radio reached out via email last week to Megan Petrie, the publicist for Arcadia who had sent the book to the station in the first place. Petrie responded the next day, expressing gratitude for having the errors called to her attention, and said she would be back in touch with additional information.

It took a few days and few emails back and forth, but an update from Petrie came Thursday, and it appears that Arcadia is doing the right thing:

“We stopped shipping the books as soon as you brought the problem to our attention and will be reprinting the entire stock. We have been working tirelessly this week to arrange for a re-print of the book. … We take local history very seriously and believe in creating a quality product that enriches the bond between children and their communities.”

Petrie thanked KIRO Radio again for reaching out, and concluded by saying, “We love local, and we’re glad you do, too.”

Now, if only Megan Petrie and Arcadia Publishing could do something about that 2015 Super Bowl.

You can hear Feliks every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News, read more from him here, and subscribe to The Resident Historian Podcast here. If you have a story idea, please email Feliks here.

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All Over The Map: New Seattle history book for kids recalled by publisher