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Erica Rutherford
Charlottetown, Ragweed Press, 1994. 36pp, cloth, $14.95
ISBN 0-921556-44-6. CIP

Kindergarten to Grade 3/Ages 5 to 8

Reviewed by Jennifer Johnson

Volume 22 Number 5
1994 October

An Island Alphabet by Erica Rutherford provides an artist's interpretation of her home place, Prince Edward Island. Beginning with "Abegweit," the Micmac name for the Island, Rutherford proceeds through familiar maritime terms such as "fishing" and "harbour" to specific place names (Orwell Corner and Village Acadien) to a zoom lens version of the original scene.

Rutherford begins with a painted surface and applies the detail for each scene over this. The underlying colour is reminiscent of the P.E.I, red, iron-rich soil and provides a unifying link between the various paintings. The application of a range of blues and greens over the base colour provides a luminous interpretation of the Island.

Although these works of art are beautiful, as illustrations for an alphabet book they are not uniformly effective. The author/illustrator and publisher should have defined the audience for the book more clearly before embarking on such an ambitious project. This is a single-term alphabet book (e.g., H/Harbour) and presumably the target audience is the very young. This age group is not likely to relate to some of the subtle concepts chosen by the author, such as a "rustic road", "national park" and "tubers." As well, some of the terms are difficult (Abegweit and Ceilidh) while the use of "phantom ship" for the letter P eliminates phonics as a key for the reader and listener. A pronunciation guide is provided at the end of the book for these and other words, e.g., Xanthia Lutea; however, reader frustration may arise long before the end papers are reached.

An Island Alphabet is geared to the sophisticated audience which enjoyed A Prairie Alphabet. However, the search for multiple same-letter items, such an attraction to the older reader of A Prairie Alphabet, is not provided by Rutherford. Any adult who loves the Island will treasure this book, and young children will enjoy the jewel tones and artistry. In a perfect world, the art either would have been directed to a more sophisti-cated audience or would have been designed around vocabulary and subjects more accessible to a pre-school audience, in the manner of A Big City ABC by Allan Moak (Tundra Books, 1984).

Optional purchase.

Jennifer Johnson works as a children's librarian in Ottawa, Ontario.

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