Alligator in an Anorak by Daron Parton
Random House, 2014. ISBN 9780857983091. Ebk ISBN 9780857983114
(Age: Preschool - K)Alligator in an anorak; bear in a bathtub . . . this is a quirky learn-your-alphabet book that will delight very young readers. The creator's English-ness shows through with some animals and objects that might be unfamiliar to younger readers but the illustrations provide very strong visual clues that will not only draw on their predictive skills but also extend their vocabulary. Getting early readers to examine the illustrations for clues to the meaning of the text -even if that text is offbeat- is one of the most powerful tools we can help them develop, not only on their journey to being independent readers but also being information literate. Many of Parton's interpretations such as the yak in a yacht and a whale in a wigwam are laugh-out-loud funny. Why not put an elephant in an eggcup? How did the jackdaw get in the jar? The word for X will inspire some investigation with a dictionary or Wikipedia! What is a xantus? Can an urchin really wear undies successfully?
Alphabet books are great fun for reading aloud and exploring the concepts but they also provide a model for young children to create their own stories. Brainstorm all the animals you can think of beginning with each letter of the alphabet and then let the children put them in a strange place that calls for alliteration. Build a weird and wonderful wall story for the library that will not only give them a feeling of pride and ownership but will be an excellent teaching tool for the year. I'm thinking a Kiwi in the Kitchen would be just right for K! (And hilarious if I am that Kiwi!)