________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 3. . . .September 22, 2017


Phoebe Sounds It Out.

Julie Zwillich. Illustrated by Denise Holmes.
Toronto, ON: Owlkids Books, 2017.
24 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-77147-164-0.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Reesa Cohen.

**** /4



Phoebe had seen her name before. Mama had even stitched it on her ladybug backpack. But it started with a P and had a whole lot of other letters that didn’t even make sense.

Phoebe figures her mother had made a mistake. She didn’t want mamma to feel bad about it, because everyone makes mistakes, even mamas.


The above thoughts go though Phoebe’s head as she grapples with her teacher’s assignment of having each student learn to print her or his name. Ms. Martha and Ms. April encourage their class to “Just sound it out”. But Phoebe’s challenge is that her name really doesn’t look quite like it sounds. As a result, this is not an easy task for her. She tries everything to avoid the actual assignment, gets distracted, and procrastinates, because sounding out her name does not make sense. Her efforts to accomplish the assignment are delightfully creative and quite humorous, including getting the “b” to face the right way or borrowing a letter from someone else’s name. Decorating her name with glitter glue was the best part! As she proudly displays her result “FEEBY”, a sensitive teacher handles the situation perfectly, praising her efforts.

internal art      The inner voice of a worried Phoebe is conveyed perfectly and is so authentic as she struggles with this challenge. Her doubt and hesitation ring true of this age group. Many kindergarteners might have a difficult time even with a simple name but, like Phoebe, should be encouraged to try. It is the process of figuring out how to spell and the effort, itself, that is important. After all, our sometime confusing English language can be daunting. As parents and teachers, we can relate to this difficulty, and young readers will be able to sympathize with Phoebe’s feelings. I still remember my young son in kindergarten coming home and inquiring why we had to choose to spell his name as Marc, instead of Mark, with a K, because, “everybody else knows his name should be spelled as Mark!”

      The cartoon-like illustrations suit the story. They are rendered in ink and coloured in Adobe illustrator. The end pages are delightful and reflect a busy kindergarten classroom.

Highly Recommended.

Reesa Cohen is a retired Instructor of Children’s Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.

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.

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