Friday, August 28, 2009

Book Review: Earth Day: An Alphabet Book

Simple is the best way to describe this little book.

Simplicity of design, text, and color earmark a tight little alphabet book that celebrates the earth and all its creatures.

There are no overt messages here about being ecologically aware, or about celebrating the Earth Day holiday. Each two-page spread introduces animals, plants, and insects with fresh, crisp illustrations. Alliteration creates a rhythm for words often grouped in surprising ways, like "bumblebees, bananas, blueberries and beagles." (I have to say I have never considered blueberries and beagles in the same sentence before).

Given the readability rating for a sampling of the text (9.9 on Flesch-Kincaid grade scale) this is a book for reading aloud to a child rather than one which a young child would read alone. Reading aloud offers opportunities to teach early literacy skills on each page. The reader might ask the child, "What other words do you know that start with B?" or, "What color is the elephant?" Large letters at the top of each page can be traced with little fingers to learn the letters' shapes, and the sounds of the letters could be practiced .

A slight disappointment is that some words are not illustrated; there are no raspberries on the page with the "R" words, and no nasturtium on the "N" page, for example, even though these words are included in the text. A young child would probably have no idea what a nasturtium looks like, so a learning opportunity is lost on pages that include words that are not illustrated.

With a title like Earth Day, I would have expected a page or two at the end of the book explaining the Earth Day holiday and its significance, or some suggestions for enjoying nature with a young child. Such information would have enhanced the book's value to caregivers, parents and educators.

Earth Day is a gentle, easy read celebrating the diversity of life. The book's enjoyment can be enhanced with early literacy techniques and activities to develop a child's understanding of language, and with nature activities to extend the awareness of our earth and its living creatures.

Written by Gary Kowalski
Illustrator: Rocco Baviera
Published by Unitarian Universalist Association, May 2009
ISBN-13: 9781558965423
Age Range: 4 to 8

For ideas on exploring nature with a young child check out these websites:

Family Fun Magazine article on outdoor activities

Canadian Child Care Federation's article on Exploring Nature with Children

Exploring offers pages of information and activities for children

Project Wild offers a printable brochure of ideas

The Sierra Club's website includes a section that addresses "what can I teach my child about the environment?"


Angela said...

Well, it does need a picture of a nastardium! For Me!!!! lol I have no idea what that is!

Thanks for reminding me about Family Fun Magazine! It has been a long time since I've looked at it online.

Granny Sue said...

a nasturtium is a flower that's edible, Angela. Very jewel-like flowers and pretty leaves that almost look like water lily leaves. As you say, if even the grown-ups don't know what something is, I think a child will be very confused!

Janet, said...

I've thought of writing an ABC book before and I even have one drafted, but I've read at some publisher's websites that they weren't in that much demand now. From the way you described it, I think it could have been done better. There definitely should have been an illustration for each word, but I guess the writer doesn't have any control over that.

Granny Sue said...

That's a good point, Janet--the author usually has little to say about the illustrations that accompany his or her words. I had not heard that about alphabet books not being in demand, but it makes sense. So many other good tools are available now to teach this basic skill.

Still, there are some that I think are absolute gems.

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