________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 1 . . . . September 4, 2009


Alfalfabet A to Z: The Wonderful Words from Agriculture.

Carol Watterson. Illustrated by Michela Sorrentino.
Abbotsford, BC: British Columbia Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation, 2009.
48 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
ISBN 978-0-9812317-0-9.

Subject Headings:
Agriculture-Juvenile literature.
English language-Alphabet-Juvenile literature.
Alphabet books.

Kindergarten-grade 4 / Ages 5-9.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

*** /4


Rr Reliable Red Rooster.

The rooster rises with the sun every day on the farm. What a racket he makes.

The rooster doesn't just crow in the morning. He's very noisy and will crow at any time of the day, all day long. That's because a rooster crows to let the hens know when he's found something good to eat, or to warn them of trouble in the barnyard. He will also crow to let other roosters in the neighbourhood know who's in charge.

Hens are much quieter. They cluck when they are startled or when they lay an egg.

Bardrock . Bantam . Sebright . Silkie . Buff orpington . Jeffrey Giant . Leghorn Rosecomb . Silver cuckoo . Rhode Island Red . Java

Five Fowl Facts

  1. The chicken is the closest living relative to the Tyrannosaurus Rex.
  2. Chickens don't have teeth. They swallow bits of grit and gravel to help grind up hard foods like grain in their gizzards.
  3. There are more chickens than people in the world.
  4. If there is no rooster in the flock, a hen will take over, stop laying eggs and start crowing.
  5. A chicken can run up to 14.5 km per hour.

With Canada's population increasingly becoming urban-centred, the likelihood increases that some children will not understand where their food comes from and may erroneously believe that supermarkets are "the" originating source. In an attempt to correct such a misperception and to increase children's "agricultural" vocabulary, the British Columbia Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation has published Alfalfabet A to Z: The Wonderful Words from Agriculture. As evidenced in the excerpt above, each letter in this alphabet book begins with the letter being presented in upper and lower case, and then it is used in an alliterative phrase. Individual letters are given their own pair of facing pages or they share the pages with another letter. Most of each letter's text consists of Watterson's factual prose, but some poetry is also included. Sorrentino's collage illustrations, rendered in a cartoon-like style, are bright and will be attractive to the intended audience.

Internal art

     Though most of the book's contents deal with "dirt" farming, Ff Flip Flop Fry provides a glimpse of aquaculture. In Ss Stink, Stank, Stunk, part of the letter's text reads: "The farmer uses a spreader to spread manure on her fields. It stinks! To the farmer it's a good smell. It's food for her soil and her crops." The use of the feminine pronoun is a subtle reminder that agriculture is not just a male domain.
Overall, Alfalfabet A to Z: The Wonderful Words from Agriculture is a good introduction to the larger world of agriculture, but it is not without its faults, though the faults are more a pair of missed opportunities than true faults. In two cases, Jj and Zz the focus letter has no text beyond the alliterative phrase. Given that Ww Woolly Bears Worry Watermelons provided young readers with directions on how to overwinter wooly bear caterpillars so that they could be observed emerging in the spring as moths, both Juggling, Jiggly Jams and Jellies and Zoom Zoom Zucchini could have easily been transformed into a child/adult activity wherein they shared in making a jam or jelly or perhaps in baking a zucchini cake or bread. This shared activity would have then concretized for children the idea that some foods, like the aforementioned jams, jellies, cakes and breads, are not just products purchased in stores.

     Be certain to visit the website of the British Columbia Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation (http://www.aitc.ca/bc) where lesson ideas and other resources may be found. You can also visit the Alphabet website at http://www.alfalfabet.com.


Dave Jenkinson, who lives in Winnipeg, MB, is CM's editor.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.