CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 6 . . . . November 17, 2000
Zigzag steps and zebra stripes celebrate Zulu Mas'.Tundra Books has a growing library of alphabet books for children. This addition has many of the features of A Prairie Alphabet, A Seaside Alphabet and A Mountain Alphabet, such as an introduction by the author, alliterative text, hidden objects, background information for each page, and sturdy binding. Play Mas' moves away from the various landscapes of Canada to one of our rich cultural heritages.
The alphabet book is interactive. Each illustration is filled with objects that begin with that specific letter of the alphabet. As the readers search for these items, they might also find the letter, itself, hidden within the detailed pictures. The letters on each page are represented both in upper and lower cases. McLean's text introduces the reader to many components of the Carnival - the iron men who set the rhythm for the parade with thin metal rods beating on tire irons; Panorama, which is a competition of steel bands; or "j'ouvert," the opening ceremonies. The costumes play a key role in the book as they do in the actual Carnival. Both text and illustration point to the importance of beads, neckpieces, headpieces and make-up as the performers dance, sing and play through the pages. The background information includes the interesting story about steel drums being considered a "noise hazard" until the end of World War II in Europe when the drummers took to the streets to celebrate and the officials repealed the ban.
This is Dirk McLean's second children's book. Dirk was born in Trinidad and came to Toronto during his teenage years. In addition to being a writer, he is also an actor, and he hosts playwriting workshops in Canada, the Caribbean and South Africa. As in his first book, Steel Drums and Ice Skates, Dirk brings to life, through his text, the rich and vibrant culture of his homeland and his pride in the spread of this culture through Canada, the United States and England.
Ras Stone, the illustrator, has the same background. This is his first children's book, but his diverse background includes, in addition to his paintings, designing jewelry, paper-mache creations and the design of costumes for Carnival. The Carnival illustrations are rich and vibrant with bright colors and a unique form of shading. Together, the author and illustrator bring their shared love of the Caribbean Carnival.
This book will enhance curriculum studies in the areas of multiculturalism, language development, alliteration, vocabulary, the alphabet, art, costumes and, most specifically, the Carnival. Be sure to visit the Tundra web site at www.tundrabooks.com. The site now includes a Teacher Guide to accompany A Mountain Alphabet and perhaps will add other supports for the alphabet collection.
Susan Fonseca is a teacher-librarian at Glenwood School in Winnipeg, MB.
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