________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 16 . . . . April 12, 2002

cover A Pacific Alphabet.

Margriet Ruurs. Illustrated by Dianna Bonder.
Vancouver, BC: Whitecap Books, 2001.
32 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 1-55285-264-4.

Subject Headings:
English language-Alphabet-Juvenile literature.
Pacific Coast (B.C.)-Pictorial works-Juvenile literature.

Preschool-grade 6 / Ages 3-11.

Review by Cora Lee.

***1/2 /4

excerpt: image


Ten thousand tentacles
tickle my toe
where turquoise
anemones and
turretshells grow.

Each page of A Pacific Alphabet is an Alice-in-Wonderland consortium of creatures and objects, dropped together in the oddest of contexts. To begin with, the ocean is rife with red, red apples, carrots occupy a crow's-nest, and fairies consort with frogs. Looking through these pages crafted by writer Margriet Ruurs and illustrator Dianna Bonder, BC dwellers both, an adult might wonder if the water's laced with more than just salt. This is no substance-induced output, however, nor is it a hodgepodge collection of alliterative items, haphazardly gathered to fulfill some alphabetic criteria. The book is 26 pages (and then some) of letter-centred content, playfully connected by not only the obvious -- the Pacific Ocean -- but also by the contemplation and wonder inspired universally by the sea.

     Bonder's whimsical creations stay true to the text but also spin starts for stories of their own. The quirky mix of the real and unreal should pose no problem for the young. In the small child's universe, frogs juggle and play guitars every day, peanut butter fish are the next logical step in the evolution of jellyfish, and both concepts have as legitimate a place as the apples, balls, cats and dogs that inhabit the same book. Older kids will delight in pointing out the incongruities, then set to work seeking the letters that are worked into each page. Those that are older still (adults included) can bask in the mood-drenched luminosity of the colours and immerse themselves in the detail of the sea-inspired scenes.

     This integration of multiple levels of interest leaves Ruurs free to use what words she wills. Some are unexpected: words such as quaint, anemones, cumulus, exquisite, and reap are far from common in most kids' vocabularies. But aren't books for learning as well as enjoying? Parents will be pleased to see the variety of sounds represented -- both hard and soft c, for example, and long and short vowels. They'll be grateful, too, for the list at the back, which identifies the less commonly known items on each page: auklets, nimbostratus clouds, yucca plants. Ruurs' text well reflects the whimsy and wonder of the illustrations, and both are the enchanting result of sea-sharpened senses.

Highly Recommended.

Cora Lee is a Vancouver writer and editor.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364