CM Magazine: Wild Woman Alphabet.
________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 28. . . .March 23, 2018


Wild Woman Alphabet. (Schchechmala Children’s Series).

Doris Muise.
Penticton, BC: Theytus Books, 2017.
72 pp., board book, $28.69.
ISBN 978-1-926886-48-0.

Subject Headings:
Alphabet books-Juvenile literature.
English language-Alphabet-Juvenile literature.
Women-Juvenile literature.
Native peoples-Canada-Juvenile literature.

Kindergarten-grade 2 / Ages 5-7.

Review by Anita Miettunen.

** /4



The first wild woman wanted abalone meat.
She tossed the shell in the air and boasted, “How neat.”
When the shell shot out arrows and axed an assault
she just folded her arms like it wasn’t her fault.

The second wild woman baked warm bannock bread
and ate from a batch that she heaped on her bed.
She belched a red button, hand on her head
then burped out a baseball on her button-bound spread.


Doris Muise, an artist, teacher, and writer of Mik’maq, French, and Scottish descent, has created an alphabet book that strives to introduce Indigenous themes through text and bright collage illustrations. Through the vibrant and original art work, which appear to be primarily a mix of cut out photo images with some painting, children will enjoy searching for and identifying objects associated with each letter. Written in verse, the rhymes are at times humorous and surprising.

      However, the text would have benefitted from more thorough editing. The back section includes a vocabulary list for each letter, but many of these words seem randomly chosen and include a wide mix of nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs which may not align with the illustrations for each letter. Children may have trouble recognizing some objects (e.g., an abacus illustrated under “A”) when there is not always a corresponding match in the vocabulary list. Another confusing example is highlighting the word “knum” in the verse for letter “C” but “knum” is not illustrated; furthermore, its subsequent explanation (“half-smoked salmon”) is found under “K” in the vocabulary list.

The third wild woman cooked knum in a crock
and crammed without care ‘til her stomach was blocked.
She thought about nibbling the tip of a carving.
It was a terrible craving. She feared she was starving.
      Many words, e.g., “evidence,” “exactly,” “utter,” “quip,” “zenith,” and “zone”, seem to be included randomly in the vocabulary list and are not illustrated; their meaning may also be harder to explain to younger grade levels.

      This leads me to my main reservation with Wild Woman Alphabet: it can be a choppy and confusing reading experience. Additionally, with each alphabet entry written in verse, the mix of meters and stanzas often leads to an inconsistent rhythm through the book.
Mm Nn Oo
The thirteenth wild woman lost her whole appetite,
but her sister had feasted, so she thought she might.
The sounds that she munched on moved in her chest.
Out marched a moon mask, an /n/ in a nest, /o/ in
an octopus, and an owl oddly dressed.
     For readers looking for a wild romp, however, there is enough humour and surprise to be enjoyed in the quirky verses and colourful collage work. According to the publisher’s note, an accompanying “Teacher Curriculum Guide”, written by Elaine Harris, is also available on request.

Recommended with Reservations.

Anita Miettunen is a writer based in Vancouver, BC. She is completing a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia.

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