________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 1 . . . . September 1, 2006

cover A is for Ampe: An Alphabet Book from Ghana.

Kathy Knowles. Photos by Bruce Hildebrand & Kathy Knowles.
Winnipeg, MB: Osu Children’s Library Fund (188 Montrose St., R3M 3M7), 2006.
32 pp., pbk., $10.00.
ISBN 0-9780156-0-6.

Subject Headings:
English language-Alphabet-Juvenile literature.
Alphabet books.
Ghana-Pictorial works-Juvenile literature.

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 3-6.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

**** /4

A is for Ampe: An Alphabet Book from Ghana is a must-add book for youngsters’ home libraries as well as a must-purchase by day cares, kindergartens, early years classrooms and the children’s section of public libraries.

internal art

     In this well-designed alphabet book, the entire alphabet, in upper case, runs across the top of each page which has the focused-upon letter being presented in bolded, larger print. At the bottom of the page, the upper case letter appears in one corner and the lower case in the other. In between is the very brief text which follows a simple, standard pattern, eg. “D is for drum” or “T is for twins.” The objects used to represent the letters can be found in Hildebrand’s and Knowles’ full colour photos which occupy most of each page. Children will encounter the familiar, such as “E is for eggs” and “U is for umbrella,” but, as the short title indicates, they will also meet many new words. Hopefully, those adults who will be sharing this book with pre-readers will have, themselves, first read the book so that they will have discovered at the book’s conclusion the “Glossary of Ghanaian Words” in which Knowles, in addition to providing, where needed, a pronunciation guide, has explained eight Ghanaian terms, including the title’s “Ampe [AHM-pay}: A challenging game, usually played by girls, which involves jumping and clapping. The leading player tries to beat her opponent by the tactical placement of her left or right foot.”

     Despite children’s encountering a bit of the familiar in the photos, the pictures’ backgrounds, along with the people’s dress, clearly remind youngsters that the book’s setting is not Canada. Even the commonplace, “H is for honey,” assumes a new appearance when, in liquid form, it appears in recycled bottles. In the main, Hildebrand’s and Knowles’ photos do a fine job in visually representing letters’ items, but occasionally cropping or choice of perspective, as occurs with, for example, “N is for net” or “X is for xylophone,” may challenge younger readers to “see” and/or recognize what they are supposed to looking at. As well, younger non-readers may need adult assistance in focusing on unfamiliar things, such as “K is for kenkey” and even “C is for cocoa” as their experience with the latter is likely limited to the processed product, not the raw bean. The placement of the girl’s hands in “R is for reading” suggests that she is reading Braille, but the photo lacks sufficient detail for its viewers to see the raised dot letters. However, these are minor quibbles in this concept book which takes youngsters out of their familiar home setting while contributing to their learning the alphabet.

     Profits from the sale of this book will support the Osu Children’s Library Fund, “an organization that promotes the joy of reading for al in Africa.” See www.osuchildrenslibraryfund.ca for more information.

Highly Recommended.

Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children’s and YA literature at the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.


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

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