My Manitoba Friends A - Z.
Grades 1 - 3 / Ages 6 - 8.
"My Manitoba Friends is designed for the young reader to identify both the alphabet and Manitoba geography. Each page starts with a letter and ends with the next letter of the alphabet allowing the child to see the progression. Enjoy reading."
Based on his short introduction, author/illustrator Thomas Reid seems to have had the best intentions for this picture book. Unfortunately, it fails in a number of ways.
The background for each page is the outline of Manitoba with a crocus off to one side that is never identified.. The province is a soft shade of green with pale capital letters approximating the location of the towns featured in the book. Each page targets one over size letter, usually at the top. It is bright red, and shown in both upper and lower case.
The first page reads "ALANA'S ALLIGATOR ATE AT ALTONA'S ANNUAL BIRTHDAY BASH", followed by the question "CAN YOU FIND ALTONA ON THE MAP?" There is a red tiered cake with three candles and a green alligator with a party hat superimposed over the map. A colour cameo of Alana is near the bottom.
Page two tells us "BILLY'S BELUGA BATHED BESIDE BRANDON'S CRAZY CAMEL". A multicolored camel and a whale in a shower are featured mid-page, Billy is at the bottom corner. The directional question (can we find __), repeats at the bottom of each page in the book. All the print is in upper case, which makes reading difficult.
As you may have deduced, this book has a cluttered layout. The artwork is also extremely unappealing. "SAMANTHA'S SILLY SWAN SOAKED SNOW LAKE'S TEPEE TOTALLY" shows a stream of water (?) spewing from a swan and hitting the tent. The people appear disembodied and distorted. Their cartoon-like features are confusing. Most of the skin tones are the colour of cardboard; ethnic variations are pink, puce green or dark brown.
Billy has a taupe face with startling pink patches at either edge of his smile. This was probably supposed to represent a healthy glow, but comes across as clown-like. Greg is worse off - he has one normal eye and one where the white part is emerald green. Both of Petunia's whites are green, and in combination with her shrunken head has the effect of an evil Mr. Potato Head.
Even the title page confuses, over the background of correctly placed pale letters is a random pattern of red letters surrounding the red title. The least muddled page is at the center of the book. It is a blowup of the Manitoba background found on every page, with all the featured place names listed at the bottom.
As a concept, this book had promise. Unfortunately, the author's rigid parameters force each descriptive sentence to end with the next letter of the alphabet. It would have been much more educational and engaging if each place could have been linked with a memorable symbol that represents the community. e.g. Instead of "WALLY'S WONDERFUL WALLEYE WELCOMING WINNIPEG'S EXTRA XMAS",(huh?) couldn't he have welcomed the Golden Boy? Not only that, many kids may be familiar with Manitoba's giant statues such as our giant mosquito and catfish. Why not incorporate them?
All in all, this disappointing paperback should only be considered for purchase by those desperate for Manitoba content. Otherwise, it's not recommended.
A. Edwardsson works at a branch of the Winnipeg Public Library, where she is in charge of the Childrens dept. She has a Bachelor of Education degree, Child Care Worker III certification, and is a member of the Manitoba branch of the Canadian Authors Association.
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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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