Alphabet Zoo
by Pat Chapman and Martha Ellis
Page Publishing, Inc.

Lazing in the Ocean.
You can almost see right through it
As it floats by in slow motion."

Nicely captured by the camera, almost as if posing, twenty-six animals represent the letters of the alphabet. A mother and baby meerkat perch together on a rock; a handsome nene strides through a green and flowered field; a quail nestles under a sheaf of leaves; a vulture seems to prance arrogantly with wings spread. The collection begins with an alligator almost “hidden by thick green goo” in its swampy home, and ends with zebra—in this case, a small herd of the handsome animals in the grassy veldt. Two animals are noted by the final letter in their names: gnu for the letter “u” and fox for “x.” But the book is not all pictures and poems. Chapman and Ellis conclude with a “lagniappe” or extra added gift—another alphabetical listing, giving more facts about each species in short sentences.

The co-creators are retired educators who have taken their acquired professional knowledge in a new direction by creating books for young learners, incorporating their skills in photography and writing, both poetry and prose. And as this offering amply demonstrates, their caring shines through their work. The vivid photos accurately depict surroundings and groupings that convey an impression of the animals’ homes and habits. The little poems offer enjoyable whimsy: sheep have “fluffy coats” and follow their leader, along with such significant details as the vulture’s “binocular-like eyesight” and the nene’s distinction as Hawaii’s official bird. The photos and verses are supported with simple dictionary listings informing readers that, for example, alligators may have up to three thousand teeth in a lifetime, and penguins can leap seven feet up from the water. Chapman and Ellis have constructed an engaging read-to or read-it-yourself educational tool for young children, which might teach their elders a few new facts as well.

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