CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 12 . . . .February 18, 2005
ABC Letters in the Library.
Bonnie Farmer. Illustrated by Chum McLeod.
Montreal, PQ: Lobster Press, 2004.
32 pp., cloth, $21.95.
English language-Alphabet-Juvenile literature.
Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.
Review by Valerie Nielsen.
Alphabet books abound on public and elementary school library shelves. Many are written not so much for the purpose of teaching the alphabet to pre-literate children but rather to tickle the fancy and stretch the imagination of older readers. ABC Letters in the Library is such an alphabet book. Librarians will be pleased to find a picture book with a rollicking text and engaging pictures set in their very own realm. Bonnie Farmer takes an alliterative stroll through the library (alphabetically, of course!) devoting one page to most letters and a double page spread to a few. She writes about: "Aisles of authors arranged alphabetically."; "Overdue books keeping all others waiting" and "Story time spreading smiles on small students' faces." As she explores the nooks and crannies of the modern library, she takes care to praise some of its best resources, including "Information flowing freely in and out of the Internet "and even (to gladden the heart of school librarians) one of a library's greatest treasures, its "Valuable Volunteers."
Farmer's text is sophisticated enough to appeal to the older primary group yet simple enough for even preschoolers to enjoy (particularly as it is accompanied by Chum McLeod's droll and colourful illustrations). Librarians will find ABC Letters in the Library an excellent resource to use in their introductory sessions with the K to Grade One students. Teachers may even feel inspired to have their students create a collaborative alphabet book set in the classroom, music room or gym. In such a creative endeavor, there is always some danger of overusing the poetic device, of course; however, Farmer does not fall into this sort of trap. By and large, each letter merits two or three examples of alliteration with a few stretching to four instances.
Bonnie Farmer is not only an author of several children's books, but she is also an elementary school teacher and award-winning playwright. Her love of books and words, as well as her understanding of young listeners, is clearly exhibited in a lively text which is just the right length for little ones with short attention spans. Another valuable feature of ABC Letters in the Library is the vocabulary enhancement which will be certain to follow a shared reading of the picture book with five to eight-year-olds.
Artist Chum McLeod, who has illustrated more than 20 children's books, has a wonderful eye for the kind of detail primary children love to search for and comment on. Her drawings depicting the characters inhabiting a library (not only the kids, but also the librarians, the story-teller, the volunteer, and the elderly "napper who nods off behind inky newspapers" are exceptionally appealing.
Elementary librarians will enjoy using ABC Letters in the Library with young listeners in the double role of reading instruction and orientation to the school library. This alphabet book is one not to miss.
A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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