Animalphabet by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Sharon King-Chai (9780525554158)
Immediately upon opening this book, young listeners are presented with flaps to lift. It invites them to explore and find out what is going to happen. The book is an alphabet book presented as a guessing game where flaps and page turns reveal the answers. The book begins with ant for A and moves all the way through the alphabet using animals for each letter, ending with the logical zebra. As each animal enters, the book asks a question of the reader. Moving on from ant, the text asks “Who is fancier than an ant?” The answer of butterfly is hidden by a bouquet of flowers that has tantalizing cut outs.
The book is a journey and a quest, from the answering of the questions with animals that start with a specific letter to the turning of each page to reveal a new creature. The questions are helpful at times, jumping high cues the kangaroo’s entrance, for example. Other times, readers will need to think a bit before guessing. The book forms an entire circle, moving from zebra right to ant as the answer for the final question in the book.
The illustrations play a huge role in the pleasure of this book. They are filled with peep holes, flaps to lift, pages to open and much more. The illustrations are full of bright colors, entire habitats, and jaunty animal figures. The joy here is a tactile and mental one combined, making it a very successful and never-dull alphabet book.
Beautifully designed and executed, this one will be a favorite. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story by Leslea Newman, illustrated by Amy June Bates (9781419727474)
When Gittel and her mother are about to get on the boat that will carry them from Russia to America, Gittel’s mother is turned away due to an eye infection. Gittel at age nine, is sent alone to America. She has a note with her mother’s cousin’s address in her pocket. She checks on it constantly to make sure she hasn’t lost it on the long journey. She spends much of it alone, but also meets children on board the ship. However, when she reaches Ellis Island, the ink on the note has run and no address can be read. How will Gittel ever find her family in a foreign land?
Newman tells a story inspired by two real life stories of her family and friends’ journeys to America. The story is firmly rooted in the Jewish faith with the celebration of Sabbath and speaking Yiddish on both ends of the journey. Gittel’s mother gives her the Shabbat candlesticks to carry with her on her journey. The story is beautifully told in slightly longer prose than many picture books, allowing details of the immigrant experience to be shared. The mystery of getting Gittel in touch with her family is solved by kindness and ingenuity and offers a satisfying end to Gittel’s adventure.
The illustrations by Bates have a lovely softness to them that is accompanied by rich color. Gittel herself is distinctive on every page given her small size and red scarf. She also carries a yellow cloth bag filled with her belongings. Gittel’s journey is depicted as difficult but not squalid and even when she is lost there is not a sense of danger but hope thanks to the illustrations.
A lovely look at immigration through the eyes of a child. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.