Monday, June 02, 2008

ABCs of Canada

I'm always on the prowl for alphabet books and have been fiddling with one myself, which will probably never see the light of day (or a printing press). Sleeping Bear Press, from Chelsea, MI, seems to specialize in them, including titles for Canada. Each has its own flavour and a different writer-illustrator team. All are worth a look. Let's start close to home...

S is for Spirit Bear: A British Columbia Alphabet by G. Gregory Roberts and illustrated by Bob Doucet.

Each spread includes four lines of rhyming text and then a longer explanation of the ideas introduced in the stanza. Here's the entry for E:

E is for Emily Carr
with her artist soul and artist hand.
She inspired us with her written word,
and her paintings of her land.

As a lifelong resident of BC, I appreciate the breadth of the representations of BC the author included. Aboriginal people, dogwood (our provincial flower), Steller's Jay (our provincial bird), BC ferries, Steve Nash, Ogopogo, Zeballos, etc. Clearly, Roberts did his homework. He is cognizant, for instance, that after using Queen Charlotte Islands for Q, to mention the name preferred by the Haida residents, Haida Gwaii, and it's great to have so many current references, such as the discovery of "Kwaday Dan Sinchi, the "long ago person found." I have only a few quibbles, one being that I found a few of the rhymes a bit clunky and also that there was really not much representation of the northern part of the province (north of Haida Gwaii). Minor quibbles though and this book would make a great keepsake, introduction to the province, and useful resource in the classroom and library.

Any writing instructor will tell you that if you're interested in writing an ABC book, to do the Q, X and Z test first. If you don't have a good match for those letters, it's not going to fly. So, here's how Roberts approached the challenge:

Q test: "Q is for Queen Charlotte Islands,..." (BC has a few choices for Q, so this was a good choice.)
X test: "The name Terry Fox holds the X..." (Hmmm, a bit of a stretch, but Terry needs to be in this book, so I forgive!)
Z test: "Z is for Zeballos,..." (Nice exposure for this little island town.)

Here's a review from Canadian Materials and here's a teacher's guide.

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