CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 33 . . . . April 27, 2018
Given the young age of this pair of board books' intended audience, it is highly unlikely that any of them will recognize who the books' red-headed Anne is supposed to be, but Kelly Hill, the author/illustrator, acknowledges that the books' contents were inspired by the central character of the Canadian classic Anne of Green Gables. Back cover information indicates that the illustrations were sewn and embroidered by Hill using fabric, thread and embroidery floss. Both books utilize a similar design, with each pair of facing pages treating a single colour or number, with one page carrying the brief text and the other a full-page illustration. Hill acknowledges that some of the scenes she illustrated represent incidents found within the pages of Anne of Green Gables. The text, which consists of a colour or number plus one or two words, is contained within a box outlined by a zigzag stitch. In each corner of the box and in the middle of the bottom line of stitching, Hill has added a small illustration of something that represents the appropriate colour or something which can be counted to match the pages' target number. Another zigzag stitch, which runs the length of the pages' gutter, gives the board book the appearance of a cloth book.
In order, Anne's Colors introduces orange, white, black, pink, red, blue, brown, yellow, purple and green. The text for "orange" reads:
Each of the cloth letters spelling out orange reveals a different shade of the colour orange, with this shade pattern use being largely repeated throughout the book. I did find it a bit odd that Hill elected to use Anne's braids as the example for the colour orange, especially when the original text reads: "She wore a faded brown sailor hat and beneath the hat, extending down her back, were two braids of very thick, decidedly red hair. (Emphasis mine) While Anne's braids were the colour focal point for "orange", young readers can also find orange carrots, insects and flowers on the text page and more orange flowers on the illustration page. Though board books are often used as a means for expanding a child's vocabulary, because of the Anne of Green Gables connection, some of the words Hill selected to represent a colour are somewhat unusual, words such as red's "cordial", purple's "twilight" and green's "gables".
Anne's Numbers introduces preschoolers to the numbers from 1 to 10. According to promotional material accompanying the book, "The path Anne takes [in the board book] is based on the description of Anne's walk to school in Anne of Green Gables." Though the text directs the reader to what s/he should be counting, both the text and illustration page offer several additional counting opportunities. For example, on the pages accompanying
youngsters can find two larva on the text page and on the illustration page two plants, each with two blossoms, two boots, two braids, two hands, and two white dots on each of the butterflies (and I haven't exhausted all of the twos). With a pair of exceptions, "stepping stones" and "toadstools", the things to be counted should be familiar to most young readers.
In Anne's Numbers, youngsters (and adult readers) may need to be prompted to take a second, closer look at the illustration that is found centered at the bottom of the text page. For instance, on the 5/forest animal pages, five animals, a squirrel, deer, racoon, fox and rabbit, can be seen in the forest while, on the text page, Hill has illustrated five animal foot tracks to also be counted. Unspoken is the invitation to match each track with the appropriate animal portrayed in the forest. And children can be asked, "Why are there 10 cupcakes on the text page of 10/friends or 8 jars on the 8/berries page?"
Though the "Anne" connection will undoubtedly be more meaningful to adult readers who encountered Anne of Green Gables in their elementary school years than it will be to the books' intended preschool audience, both Anne's Colors and Anne's Numbers are fine introductory concept books which merit individual and institutional purchase.
Dave Jenkinson, CM's editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.