________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 3. . . .September 18, 2009


Have You Ever Noticed? An A-Z Look at Feelings and Actions.

Ray Ali & Rudy Ambtman with Elaine Ali and Zobida Ambtman. Illustrated by Stephanie Besselt-O’Leary.
Winnipeg, MB: R. Ali, 2008.
63 pp., pbk, $15.95 (plus postage).
ISBN 978-0-9810602-0-0.

Subject Heading:
Emotions-Juvenile literature.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

** /4



Have you ever noticed?
When you have lots of
Your eyes get bigger
and fill up with TEARS

Though an alphabet book, Have You Ever Noticed? was not created to teach children to recognize the upper and lower case letters of the alphabet. Instead, according to the authors’ introduction, the book was “written with two primary purposes in mind.”

internal art      The first is to help young children identify and put words to their thinking, feelings and behaviours. In addition, it is designed to further help children become aware of how their thinking, feelings and actions impact others as well as themselves....The second major purpose is to develop language and reading skills through phonemic awareness.

     The principal authors, Ray Ali, a marriage and family therapist, and Rudy Ambtman, who holds a doctorate in psychology and operates a management consulting firm, explain that they chose to write the text in rhyme because “rhyming is one of the easiest and most enjoyable technique [sic] in developing language skills in young children.”

     While the authors’ purpose in producing Have You Ever Noticed? is laudable, their decisions to choose the format of an alphabet book and to write in rhyme may not have been the wisest. The 26 letters of the alphabet book are constraining, and finding an appropriate “feeling” or “action” for each letter can be a challenge, especially when confronted with the “tough” letters, like Q, V, X and Z. Though “QUEASY” works fairly well for Qq, “VOICE,” ”X-RAY” and “ZEST” are a stretch given that the book’s subtitle asserts that the book is a “look at FEELINGS and ACTIONS.” And “UGLY” for Uu is neither a feeling nor an action.

     Rhyme is also constraining and can result in an author’s just finding something that rhymes, even though, as can be seen in the examples below, the rhyme doesn’t necessarily contribute strongly to the idea being presented.

     Nn NEAT
     Have you ever noticed?
          When you’re tidy and
     It’s easier to find things...
     Like your hamster PETE?

     Tt TIRED
     Have you ever noticed?
          When you are
Being patient and calm
      is all that’s REQUIRED.

     Each letter of the alphabet is treated via a pair of facing pages with the left page carrying both the appropriate letter in upper and lower case and the feeling/action word. The recto consists of the rhyming text and Besselt-O’Leary’s cartoon-like illustrations in which the child and adult characters reflect today’s multicultural society. In the main, non-reading children could look at the illustrations and deduce the feeling/action, though a few illustrations, such as those for Kk KIND, Pp PRIDE and Rr ROUGH might leave image-reading youngsters guessing while the illustration for Ss SAD actually portrays the exact opposite emotion as a smiling girl sits astride her father’s shoulders.

     In order to assist adult readers in actualizing the authors’ first purpose in creating the book, they have provided a concluding “Discussion Guide” that follows the main portion of the book and which consists of “some starter questions to assist you in your discussions with children.” Arranged alphabetically from ANGRY to ZEST, the feeling or action is followed by a statement/definition of the concept and then four to seven questions that a parent/other adult could use to initiate a conversation about that particular feeling/action. As can be seen in the FEARS example below, the questions begin by having the child reader/viewer initially focus on the behaviour being displayed by the youngster seen in the letter’s illustration before the reader/listener is asked to respond at a personal level.

     FEARS (concept: feeling afraid and scared).
     *How do you think the boy feels?
     *Why do you think he is feeling that way?
     *What needs to happen for him to feel better?
     *What are you afraid about?
     *What does your face look like when you are afraid?

     Parents/adults who use this portion of the book may find it awkward to have to keep turning back and forth between the appropriate letter pages and their discussion questions.

Recommended with reservations.

Dave Jenkinson, who lives in Winnipeg, MB, is CM’s editor.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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ISSN 1201-9364
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