________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 4 . . . . October 12, 2007

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Where is the Star? A Book of Shapes from Ghana.

Kathy Knowles.
Winnipeg, MB: Osu Children’s Library Fund (www.osuchildrenslibraryfund.ca), 2007.
24 pp., stapled, $10.00.
ISBN 978-0-9783384-4-2.

Subject Headings:
Shapes-Juvenile literature.
Form perception-Juvenile literature.
Ghana-Pictorial works-Juvenile literature.

Preschool / Ages 1-5.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

**** /4

   
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Open and Closed: A Book of Opposites from Ghana.

Kathy Knowles.
Winnipeg, MB: Osu Children’s Library Fund (www.osuchildrenslibraryfund.ca), 2007.
32 pp., stapled, $10.00.
ISBN 978-0-9783384-3-5.

Subject Headings:
Antonyms-Juvenile literature.
English language-Synonyms and antonyms.
Ghana-Pictorial works-Juvenile literature.

Preschool / Ages 1-5.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

***½ /4

Where is the heart?

The heart is in the canoe.

Both of these slim books deal with teaching very young children about concepts, and, as the titles indicate, one deals with different shapes and the second with the idea of opposites. Both books utilize a similar format which requires the child to be an active learner. Each recto asks a question while the verso provides a visual and text answer. As can be seen in the accompanying illustration from Where is the Star?, youngsters are asked, “Where is the heart?” and, when they turn over the page, they discover that the heart is part of the decoration on a canoe. In all, 10 shapes are introduced one by one: star, diamond, heart, oval, circle, semicircle, rectangle, pentagon, square and triangle, and they are brought together on the book’s closing page. Though the objects found in Knowles’s bright colour photographs will undoubtedly be familiar to most Ghanaian children, Canadian youngsters get the added benefit of encountering visual aspects of another country and culture. For example, the canoe used in the above illustration does not look like canoes found in Canada. The only shape illustration which does not work as well as it could is the final one in the book. In it, three girls are lying on a floor and forming the triangle shape. Younger children, in particular, may have difficulty in “forming” the sides of the triangle which are interrupted by legs and arms.

What is the opposite of together?

apart

     Open and Closed also uses a question and answer format which is illustrated in the photograph of the three children holding hands with the text asking, “What is the opposite of together?” A turning of the page reveals that the children have dropped their hands and have put some distance between each of them, with the text providing the one word answer, “apart.” Fourteen pairs of opposites are provided: front/back; up/down; together/apart; on/off; empty/full; sit/stand; little/big; boy/girl; torn/repaired; sad/happy; left/right; young/old; near/far; quiet/loud.

     Whereas shapes are quite concrete and really not open to alternate interpretations, opposites can be a bit slippery to present visually as the meaning of words is frequently dependent upon context. For example, the illustrations for “on/off” visually present one of the many meanings of on/off, that being to put articles of clothing on and to take them off. Nonreading children looking at the book without an adult, may, however, “correctly” ascribe that pairing of words to the photo of two girls sitting “on” a bench” who are then shown “off” the bench. The “correct” opposites were “sit” and “stand.” Adults using this book with youngsters must, therefore, be open to “hearing” and accepting alternate responses that will undoubtedly be given to a number of the visuals. In a few instances, photo order could have been flipped in order to better “see” the opposites. For instance, the photo accompanying “little” portrays a little boy holding a toy boat. The young “reader” is potentially faced with a double challenge. Is the boy the “little” part of the picture, or is it that “thing”, which he is holding (as the homemade toy boat may not be recognizable as such)? The next page, however, clearly reveals a “big” boat. And, without getting into issues of political correctness, is the opposite of “boy” really “girl”? Again, like Where is the Star?, Open and Closed offers Canadian children a glimpse into another culture, and the photographs will provide opportunities for learnings beyond the book’s primary purpose.

     The two books are most worthy additions to home, school and public libraries, and the profits from the sales will contribute to further library development in Ghana.

Highly Recommended.

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.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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