CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 31. . . .April 13, 2018
How I Did It!
Linda Ragsdale. Illustrated by Anoosha Syed.
Franklin, TN: Flowerpot Press (Distributed in Canada by Thomas Allen & Son), 2017.
32 pp., hardcover, $21.99.
Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.
Review by Ellen Heaney.
As author Linda Ragsdale states on the jacket of the book in hand, she created the Peace Dragon “to teach us how to harness our fiery energy into a peaceful and productive outlet by owning our human powers of view, voice and choice”. Her surviving a terror attack in Mumbai in which a 13-year-old-friend and the friend’s father were killed inspired the project. How I Did It is the fourth book to come from the Peace Dragon and small press Flowerpot, including a companion volume to How I Did It!, Alphabetter.
Here we have a lively alphabet tale told in the first person by the letter ‘I’. The letters are neatly arrayed in order in an open book on top of what appears to be a classroom desk. The other twenty-five of the letters observe “I”’s antics as he takes on different shapes and investigates how he might escape the bounds of the page to explore new things. Various characters chip in with comments about “I”’s lack of discipline:
F frowned over the fuss.
“That really is crossing the lines!” exclaimed X.
Falling off the desk, “I” finds himself crumpled and twisted, but after feeling sorry for himself for a bit and engaging in some gyrations, he realizes that he has changed to become “well-rounded”. And “could do anything, … be anything”.
To finish the story off, “I” launches a paperclip that snags the letter U off the page to join him, saying encouragingly “U can do it too!”
Most of the short text in the book gets the author’s message across in a lighthearted and effective manner, although there are a few times she stretches to maintain the use of alliteration. For example:
“Hey!” harrumphed H. “What’s happening here?”
“I just want to try to curve like J,” I said.
“Hah,” harped H.
J jibed. “Why, if you get all bent out of shape you’ll be erased for sure!
Quit being a joker!”
“Joker? I can change if I choose. I’m not written in ink!”
Toronto-based artist Anoosha Syed has used bright colours to bring 26 familiar shapes to life. The eyes of the letters, many of them resembling the googly type used for children’s crafts, are especially important in creating the various expressions “I” and his fellows exhibit.
There are many other books out there that use the letters of the alphabet as the cast for a story (Alphabet Mystery, by Audrey Woods; Keith Bakers’ L M N O Peas; and that all-time read-aloud favourite Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to name a few) and this one generally comes up to the mark.
How I Did It! is recommended for primary school and public library picture book collections. Teachers may also wish to check out the instructional tips and child-directed activities on the author’s website, thepeacedragon.com.
Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, BC.
© CM Association
University of Manitoba
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