CM . . . . Volume XX Number 13 . . . . November 29, 2013
Both texts invite readers to dive in through the beautiful coloured photos on the cover and the soft, large, simple font. The letters are soft-edged block letters that are filled red, but trimmed in white. The titles pop off the page and pull the reader in!
As a reader, I anticipate from reading the title Zebra Stripes Go Head to Toe that it is going to be a book about stripes and possibly zebras or other animals that have stripes. The first two pages read, "A square has every side the same, and lots of them can make a game." Huh?...already I feel a bit duped. Where's the zebra? Does a square have stripes? (Incidentally, when you look closely enough, you can see stripes hidden in the picture on a checkerboard and on the arm band and back of the sweaters the boys are wearing in the picture.) Of course I appreciate the rhythm of the text and wonder what the next few pages will bring...maybe zebras and stripes!
Pages 3 and 4 continue with the theme of squares which then move to cubes and boxes. No zebras or stripes in sight! Blocks and cubes (from puzzle pieces to cubes of cheese) follow and then on page 13 my zebra arrives. The text before reads, "Soccer nets are squares in air; so are windows – don't kick there!" and then I turn the page to find a picture of my zebra and these words, "Some stripes run from head to feet, others go across the street.." I'm disappointed. I'm wondering if the theme of balls would have been better suited for this book as meaning jumps around and images bounce in with little connection to the whole. From this point on, stripes seem to be implied through the images of fence slats, fettuccine noodles, and bands on a whirling top. Given that most people coach young readers to use the title of a text to predict a story, this one is helpful to show a non-example - how a title can sometimes be misleading. Changing the title to something broader – Shapes at Play! Or Squares and Stripes and other cool shapes – would be more kind to the reader.
On a note of praise, the pictures are outstanding. Real. Vibrant. True to life. They hold the book together and become talking points all on their own – no text needed.
Similarly, Ladybugs Have Lots of Spots disappoints in terms of alignment of title and content. Ladybugs do not appear until page 5 which also includes the only mention of the word 'spots'. After the title, Ladybugs Have Lots of Spots, the text begins this way, "Three round buttons, one rope loop – same shape as a hula hoop." The next pages read, "Sliding sister, wriggling brother, in one side and out the other." Once again, the strategy of prediction is compromised as the title is misleading for the reader's anticipation.
Finally, as point of praise, the pictures are outstanding - vibrant and active and would serve to create a beautiful, WORDLESS book for children to build vocabulary and their own story-telling skills.
Recommended with reservations.
Carrie Subtelny is a literacy consultant, instructor and tutor in Winnipeg, MB.
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