CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 2 . . . .September 15, 2006
Dan Bar-el. Illustrated by Graham Ross.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2006.
32 pp., cloth, $19.95.
English language-Alphabet-Juvenile literature.
Kindergarten-grade 2 / Ages 5-7.
Review by Gregory Bryan.
Reviewed from f&g’s.
Gwendolyn had a goldfish, but she didn’t have a hammer.
Hector had a hammer, but he didn’t have an ice cream.
Ina had an ice cream, but…
Dan Bar-el and Graham Ross’ playful collaboration for the new ABC book, Alphabetter, is a fun way to think about the alphabet. There are so many alphabet books on the market that I suspect it is difficult for authors and illustrators to present the alphabet in a fresh and unique manner. Bar-el and Ross have certainly done so here.
Ross’ creative illustrations steal the show. Poor Frieda has a football, but no goldfish, and must, therefore, keep the football as if it were a pet fish. Lacking a hammer, Gwendolyn is reduced to carrying a goldfish on her tool belt. Because Hector has a hammer, but not an ice cream, he is forced to lick the hammer instead. Ross’ imagination has run riot, and we are the better for it.
Another feature of the illustrations is that, in each page, the illustrator has hidden a letter of the alphabet. Hidden on the “A” page is the letter “A”. On the “B” page, the letter “B” is hidden, and so on. Some of the hidden letters are easy to find. Some of the hidden letters will leave you scratching your head and wondering if the illustrator is playing a trick on you and has mischievously left the letter out of the picture.
The longer one gazes upon the illustrations, more and more quirky details become evident. Like on the page where Joo Pyo wants to fly a kite but is stuck with a huge jewel instead (what a terrible misfortune!). Joo Pyo’s t-shirt features the image of none other than the most famous kite flyer of all, Benjamin Franklin. Or on the “M” page, where a poster of Bob Marley can be seen in the reflection of the mirror. Or the art room, where the name on the door tells us that the teacher is Ms. Mondrian (likely a nod of respect toward the artist, Piet Mondrian). Or the front and back cover illustrations, where all 26 characters from the book climb aboard one another to form the shape of the letters “A” and “Z”. Or the name of the yoga instructor, U. Benda. I expect that Graham Ross has had a ball working on this project. Readers will have a ball gazing at the illustrations. “I try to create whimsical, light-hearted illustrations that are a little left of center,” Ross explains. He has succeeded in doing that here.
The inside cover flap promises more alphabet fun can be found at www.orcabooks.com. Readers will be delighted to continue the fun they have enjoyed with Alphabetter. At the time of writing this review, the additional content is not yet on the webpage, but after a telephone call through to the publisher, Orca Books, I am assured that the additional content will soon appear.
Bar-el has apparently named each of the 26 characters in the book after a child he has taught. From Alberto and Benoit, through to Yanni and Zara, I am sure that all these namesakes are delighted to see their name appear in print. Whether your name is Alberto or Angus or Arthur, or whether your name is Benoit or Barrie or Betty, this book is sure to appeal because of the humour and creativity abundantly evident from first page to last.
Alphabetter is, indeed, one of the better alphabet books.
Gregory Bryan teaches in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB.
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