________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 2. . . .September 11, 2009


M is for Moose: A Charles Pachter Alphabet.

Charles Pachter.
Toronto, ON: Cormorant Books, 2008.
64 pp., hardcover, $20.00.
ISBN 978-1-897151-33-4.

Subject Headings:
English language-Alphabet-Juvenile literature.
Alphabet Books-Juvenile literature.
Canada-Pictorial works-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up.

Review by Diana Wilkes.

*** /4



I is for Identity and Igloo and such. Canada is so cool, I love it so much.


Charles Pachter is a world-renowned, contemporary Canadian artist living in Toronto, ON. A lifetime love affair with all things Canadian has inspired his search for iconic images that he represents through his paintings, print making, mixed media as well as sculptures. His contemporary style ranges from the almost photographic, to highly graphic shapes in juxtaposition, to loose and fluid brush strokes in some of his paintings. His colour-rich artwork is generally expansive and emotive in its presentation. Some of his favourite images are barns, canoes, ducks, flags, Mounties, the Queen, and moose. Using artwork from his previous projects, as well as some relatively new pieces, Pachter has illustrated a truly Canadian picture book of striking beauty and style.

internal art     The weakness in this picture book is the alphabet poetry used to link the illustrations. If this very talented artist, Pachter, had called on his good friend Margaret Atwood or some other accomplished author to write the manuscript for this picture book, it would have been more successful. It is disappointing that the rhyming beat is frequently awkward, and the content and use of some words don't make the best sense or impact:

P is for picnic. It's fun in the sun, but when it rains, your bun is undone!

     For four pages, the rhyme ends with these uninspiring lines:

...what a wonderful view.
...what a delight.
...what a great adventure that never ends.
...what do you think of that?

     And then, (cringe) his writing contains a hint of conceit which is mildly uncomfortable and very "un-Canadian" with the author/artist's comments about his own art in the lines:

H is for Highway, Hay Bales, and Hat. A fine group of pictures, what do you think of that? (self portrait in hat)

P is for Portrait, a picture with grace. (close up self-portrait)

R is for Red Barn Reflected, what beautiful colours the artist collected.

     The alphabet poem attempts to string together the collection of artwork in a loosely-themed alphabetical construct. Clearly it was written following the arrangement of the iconic images. Usually the manuscript precedes the creation of illustrations in the building of a picture book, and this order results in a more successful "story." However, the poem in this book takes secondary place to the amazing artwork collection which is really what this picture book is all about.

      Many of the illustrations in the alphabet picture book need no further identification. A canoe is a canoe whether carried overhead in silhouette, gliding along the lake, or only the bow as revealed from inside. However, several portraits or locations are presented with only a hint of whom or what makes them significant. "Castle Frank" is one location that may not be familiar to all. "Susanna," depicted from an overhead perspective, may not be recognizable either. That's where the helpful additions in the back of the book come to the readers' aide. "In His Own Words," "Best Butter Tart Recipe," "Games to Play," "About the Images," and "More About the Art" are short, informative sections and give the reader background knowledge.

      This point brings up the common concern about many new picture books—for whom are they intended? As M is for Moose is an alphabet book, many will assume it is for young, pre-reading children, but the sophistication of the illustrations and the lack of connection with the text make this more appropriate for an older audience. The cultural content and the artistic merit of the illustrations lend this book to richer artistic uses—namely at older age levels in the classroom setting. For example, in British Columbia, the grade five social studies curriculum explores "Canada," and this book would be an engaging introduction or enhancement to any dry facts delivery of what is Canadian. Similarly, this book would be well received at upper grades and the high school level in a visual arts class. Discussion of Pachter's contemporary styles, media, compositions, use of colour, as well as the identification of important images as icons and the use of theme in his collective work, would be just some of the directions this picture book could be taken in visual arts


Diana Wilkes has taught grades K to 7 and visual arts for grades 8-10. She holds a B.Ed from Simon Fraser University and a Master of Arts degree in Children's Literature from the University of British Columbia. She writes and paints from her homes in Surrey, BC, and Nelson, New Zealand.

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

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