________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 11 . . . . January 31, 2003

cover

Alphabeasts.

Wallace Edwards.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2002.
32 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 1-55337-386-3.

Subject Headings:
English language-Alphabet-Juvenile literature.
Animals-Juvenile literature.

Preschool and up / Ages 4 and up.

Review by Wayne Serebrin.

**** /4

excerpt:

A is for Alligator,
awake from a dream.

B is for Bat,
slurping ice cream.

C is for Cat,
who reflects on its self.

Alphabeasts is a winner! With his first picture book, gifted artist and illustrator Wallace Edwards has won the 2002 Governor General's Award for Children's Book Illustration.

internal art

     Readers and viewers step through the front door of an unusual Victorian mansion and find themselves on a magical mystery tour of exquisite, zoologically accurate, alphabet animals. Each alphabeast's watercolour and coloured pencil portrait is set in a lavishly patterned and bizarre domestic background. Complementing "J is for Jaguar, checking the stairs" is an image of a jaguar slinking down the steps, its textured coat offset by a yellow and black-checked carpet, geometric wallpapered and painted walls, and vivid floor rugs. The shadowed back half of a shy unicorn leaps into its wall-hanging front half. A tarantula emerges from an upset teapot lying in a pool of spilt tea and broken, blue-green crockery shards cast against a black and white square-tiled floor. The detailed, wildly inventive artwork is a feast for guiding adults' or independent children's eyes and imaginations.

     The frequently witty rhyming couplets contribute to the meaning of their visual references. "Y is for Yak, seeking a path" humorously tags the illustration of a yak that has painted itself into a corner. "H is for Hippo, preparing to play" is a subtle, verbal tease that sits underneath the illustration of a humungous hippopotamus approaching a delicate, drawing-room chair and minuscule violin and bow.

     There is much to think and talk about as young and older readers revisit this whimsical and delightful variation on animal alphabet books that has created a unique place for itself between the realms of reality and fantasy.

Highly Recommended.

Wayne Serebrin teaches Language and Literacy in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba, 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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