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Raffi and Debbie Pike
Illustrated by Lillian Hoban New York, Crown Publishers, 1994. unpaged, cloth, $16.50
ISBN 0-517-59587-7. Distributed by Random House of Canada. CIP

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 3-6

Reviewed by Chistine Buchanan

Volume 22 Number 4
1994 September

This newly illustrated version of a previously recorded popular Raffi song (in the album One Light, One Sun) forms part of the ten-volume "Raffi Songs to Read" series. The words and pictures simultaneously celebrate the uniqueness of individuals around the world as well as their fundamental similarity:

Janet lives in England ...
Bonnie lives in Canada ...
Ahmed lives in Egypt ...
Gita lives in India ...
And each one is much like another.
A child of a mother and a father.
A very special son or daughter.
A lot like me and you.

The warmth, simplicity, repetition, and use of well-chosen detail so characteristic of Raffi's songs are demonstrated here. (It should be noted that in some contexts, "a child of a mother and a father" may need to be explained or approached with some discretion.)

The pictures by well-known illustrator Lillian Hoban are, as usual, engaging, humorous and accessible. They also cleverly enhance the idea of the song. The children (each in appropriate dress and situation) are presented as "pen-pals," writing, mailing, and opening letters to and from each other around the world.

This image gives the suggestion of a narrative structure to a song that is basically a list and thus provides a feeling of movement. Without this idea, the written text, though successful as a song, might be somewhat static in written form. Children will enjoy finding the letters in each page and deciding if they are being sent or received. The book might well serve as a springboard to a pen-pal program, within the class or group or beyond.

With its simple text and repetition, this book will be an excellent incentive to beginning readers, as well as a sing-along companion to the Raffi recording. It will also be particularly relevant to English as a Second Language and multicultural settings: one can imagine children singing and rewriting the words to fit the individuals in their own group.

The music is included (melody only), along with chords.

Recommended for public and school libraries, professional libraries for teachers and librarians, and home use.

Christine Buchanan, a former branch head with the Toronto Public Libraries, is a teacher with the Scarborough Board of Education in Toronto, Ontario
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