CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 17 . . . . April 26, 2002
Obviously for a much younger audience than other recent Canadian oriented ABC books, such as Kevin Major's Eh? to Zed! A Canadian AbeCedarium or Mike Ulmer's M is for Maple: A Canadian Alphabet, the Bellefontaine and Gürth wife/husband collaboration is stronger in its anthropomorphic illustrations than it is in its text. Outlined with heavy black lines, Gürth's usually single page illustrations are quite active and engaging, and the animals' faces express the creatures' mostly happy emotions. And there is really nothing wrong with Bellefontaine's text other than that it is unremarkable and sometimes difficult to illustrate, especially for the intended younger audience. Generally Bellefontaine is more successful when she links the letters of the alphabet to actual things and avoids concepts. For example, while the physical "B b is for Beaver, busy building a dam" can be rendered with an outdoor scene of three beavers (who are erroneously portrayed constructing a lodge, not a dam), the "A a is for Arctic" picture shows a polar bear, an Inuksuk and what are likely icebergs. On the basis of this illustration, the concept of "Arctic" will likely remain undiscovered by the concrete preschooler. And surely another more obvious Canadian example for the letter U, other than "U u is for underground where miners dig deep for coal," could have been found. Though introductory alphabet books often attempt to use words which illustrate the various sounds that can be connected with letters of the alphabet, such is not the case with ABC of Canada.
Recommended with reservations.
Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and YA literature in the Faculty
of Education, the University of Manitoba.
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