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Ted Harrison.

Montreal, Tundra Books, c1982.
Distributed by Collins.
unpaged, paperbound boards, $10.95.
ISBN 0-88776-133-X.

Reviewed by Robert W. Bruinsma.

Volume 11 Number 2.
1983 March.

Alphabet books are a peculiar sub-genre of children's picture book literature. Often they simply provide a vehicle for artists to "strut their stuff" in a ready-made format of twenty-six frames. Sometimes such books work, and sometimes they do not, depending not only on the quality of the art but also on what is done with the text, i.e., the alphabet.

Ted Harrison (and Tundra Books) has produced a gorgeously illustrated alphabet book that works. Each letter is accompanied by a striking painting with a northern motif. Although uniquely original, the paintings somehow remind me of both Emily Carr and William Kureluk at the same time. In each painting are to be found objects whose names begin with the letter featured, while the accompanying alliterative text mentions a few, e.g., Mm: "Mary runs by a moose munching in the muskeg." Children are encouraged to locate other objects in the picture beginning with the same letter and weave them into a short story, e.g., Mary's dangling mitts frightened the magpie as the moon rose over the mountains. The last page of the book lists objects in the pictures that begin with each letter so that children can check their powers of observation. Finally, each page is bordered by northern place names beginning with the letter being considered on that page. This last feature adds to the northern ambience of the book and may be used with older primary grade readers as a point of departure for some northern geography lessons.

A Northern Alphabet is a bright, beautiful, and imaginative addition to the growing collection of peculiarly Canadian alphabet books.

Robert W. Bminsma, The King's College, Edmonton, AB.
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