CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 2. . . .September 11, 2009
A Seaside Alphabet. (ABC Our Country).
Donna Grassby. Illustrated by Susan Tooke.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2000/2009.
32 pp., pbk., $9.99.
English language-Alphabet-Juvenile literature.
Atlantic Coast (Canada)-Pictorial works-Juvenile literature.
Atlantic Coast (U.S.)-Pictorial works-Juvenile literature.
Seashore-Pictorial works-Juvenile literature.
Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.
Review by Suzanne Pierson.
If you are looking for an alphabet book for older, more sophisticated students who enjoy alliterative language or tongue twisters, you may want to consider adding A Seaside Alphabet to your collection. It is not in the same class of more sophisticated alphabet books, such as Graeme Base's Animalia, for example, but it does include some interesting Canadian content that may appeal to some.
Unfortunately, because the alliterative text does not always add to the meaning obtained from viewing the pictures, this book would not be useful for beginning readers.
A Avid anglers, Angus and Anna, anchor on the arm. a
Q Quiet craft queue in Passamoquoddy Bay. q
A Seaside Alphabet is designed as an alphabet hunt with objects beginning with each letter 'hidden' in each drawing. The list of hidden objects on each page is included at the end of the book. However, if you don't already know the meaning of some of the words, such as "bobstay," "moon shell" or "quahog," there is no information in the book to help you identify them.
Additional information about each page is included at the end of the book. Some of these additional bits of information work. For example, the information for J clearly relates to the picture and adds additional information to explain details in the picture.
J Joe Batt's Arm is an authentic outport community that relies heavily on the sea to survive. There you can jig with a weighted hook on a long line that you jerk up and down over the side of a boat. Jelly fish drift into coves like this one and may be found washed up along the shorelines, tangled in seaweed. Jellyfish have saclike bodies shaped like umbrellas, with long tentacles containing stinging cells used to capture food. If you touch a dead jellyfish – watch out! Its tentacles can still sting.
Other pieces of the additional information don't work.
G Grass and plants are essential for the preservation and control of sand dunes. Tall long-rooted marram grass anchors sand and provides shelter for other shore plants, enabling them to take root in the dunes. Otherwise, blowing sand, dried by land and sea breezes, can bury valuable farmland, or clog fishing harbors. Did Anne Shirley run barefoot through sand dunes?
If you don't already know who the fictional character Anne Shirley is, the final sentence in this paragraph could be very puzzling.
The 26 colorfully detailed pictures in this book each illustrate a specific location on the eastern coast of Canada and the northern United States. Each of the locations is identified at the back of the book, but this list is almost hidden with the dedications, publication information and acknowledgments.
The pictures contain many interesting details about each location. For example, the 'flowerpot' rock formations on the F page are found at Hopewell Cape, New Brunswick. Unfortunately, the pictures also include too many intrusive objects as part of the alphabet hunt aspect of the book. The frog, and fern and feather in the foreground can be justified on the F page, but a fiddler sitting on one of the rocks on the beach seems a bit contrived.
If you put the illustration, location of the illustration, and the additional information together, you may obtain some new understanding of a seaside location but having the three pieces (illustration, location and additional text) in three different places in the book makes it too much work to be enjoyable.
Junior or intermediate teachers wanting examples of alliteration or models of a more sophisticated alphabet book may find this book to be a useful teaching tool. If you are a collector of alphabet books, or if you are a tourist on the east coast looking for an illustrated souvenir of some interesting locations, you might want this book. If you are looking for an alphabet book for your primary students, look elsewhere.
Recommended with reservations.
Suzanne Pierson is a retired teacher-librarian, currently instructing Librarianship courses at Queen's University in Kingston, ON.
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