Sunday, June 28, 2009

Book Review, By Jingo an alphabet of animals

By Jingo! an alphabet of animals is an alphabet book, a picture book, and a poetry book - what a happy combination! It's written by Janeen Brian, illustrated by Dee Huxley, and published by ABC books in 2005. I've reviewed several books from this prolific and talented Australian author (Columbia Sneezes, Elephant Mountain - recently selected as a Notable in the Younger Readers Category of the 2009 Children's Book Council of Australia Awards - Oddball, and Where does Thursday go?). I've also reviewed one other book illustrated by Dee Huxley, You and Me: Our Place.

Freedictionary.com tells us "by jingo" is used to express emphasis or surprise. This is a great title choice for a book that reveals a new delight on each page. Kids will love these short rhymes that celebrate the sheer joy of language:

Hh
hippopotamus
What a lotta
hippo-pot-a-
musses in the pool,
happy hippo-pottering
in water
to keep cool.


Janeen Brian focuses on exactly the animal features that intrigue us all, giving children insights from an animal perspective:

When kangaroo bounces
along with a broom
Joey peeks out
from its own kanga-room!


I've long been an admirer of Dee Huxley's illustrations - she doesn't disappoint. Chalk pastels on coloured paper give zing and exuberance to each page. My favourite is the Zz zebra, a whimsical, elegant creature with a tufty tail and long eyelashes. She's at full gallop across a vaguely spotted background, only understood when you read Janeen Brian's text:

Whether stripes are fashionable
or whether they are not,
I'm glad that I am full of stripe
instead of full of spot!


As you can see from the examples I've included, Janeen Brian's rhymes are wonderful. If your children don't have many poetry books, this one would make a great start. Kids need books that make them laugh, make them think, and encourage them to play with words.
By Jingo! not only does that, it's also in the format of an alphabet book, thus reinforcing alphabetical order, letter formation, sound/letter correspondence, and a host of other goodies.

Why not use
By Jingo! as a model for your children to make their own alphabet books? Kids can decide on a theme or not, then draw a picture they think best represents each letter of the alphabet. Another way in to an A-Z book is to grab your digital camera and tour your home, snapping pictures that represent the letters. Pictures can be uploaded and captioned at sites like Mixbook, or print them out, and make your own hard copy. If you don't want to write letters onto pages, why not make a game of finding a different font or graphic design for each letter, in newspapers, magazines and flyers? Young writers might embrace the challenge of writing their own rhyme for each letter too - by jingo, I'd love to hear about it if they do!

***Nonfiction Monday Round-up is at Book Aunt.***

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