Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

A Prairie Alphabet

A Prairie Alphabet

Jo Bannatyne-Cugnet
Illustrator:  Yvette Moore 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Tundra Books, 1994   ISBN: 978-0887763236

Many of us have read about how the prairies were settled by pioneers who were looking for a new life. What we often don't realize is that the prairies are still there, they are still special places where people farm the land and where they raise their families. In this book we see prairies through the eyes of children. We see what they do with their time and what their world looks like – and this is all presented to us in the form of an alphabet book.

For each letter of the alphabet the author presets readers with a single sentence in which there are a number of words that begin with the featured letter. Thus for B we hear about how the "Belgians, Bill and Bob, bed in the barn." For J we learn that the "judges gave Jesse's jar of jam first prize." Each sentence uses words in a clever way, and they give the reader an evocative image that is reinforced by the wonderfully detailed artwork that accompanies the text.

What is interesting about this book is that it is not only descriptive; it also helps readers to get a sense of what life on the prairies is like. We learn that neighbors are "always near" when help is needed, and we see how a busy young a farmer pauses while he is milking a cow to give a little cat some milk.

At the back of the book readers will discover that the illustrator has carried forward the alphabet component of the book in her artwork. For example, if you look on the M page you will see mice, a milk can, the moon, a mouser, a mouth, and mud. Readers will have a busy time looking over the pictures to find things that they might not, at first, have noticed were there. There is also a section that provides readers with more information about the scenes that are shown on the pages.