Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, April 18, 2019

A Letter Tells A Tale

Children enjoy playing with the sounds made by letters and words.  The rhythms made by combinations of the two are like a symphony to them.  If what they are hearing has a melody, they are more likely to remember it. 

When you simply start humming the alphabet song (copyright 1834 by Charles Bradlee), most children with an English language background will easily start to sing the song.  You can see they have a sense of pride in remembering the order of the letters in this alphabet.  Another use of language in which they have fun is alliteration.  B Is for Baby (Candlewick Press, March 12, 2019) written by Atinuke with illustrations by Angela Brooksbank uses a single letter, words beginning with that letter and brings a bonanza of bliss to book lovers.

B is for 

This baby is eager to have her mother weave beads into her hair.  A large basket filled with bananas captures her attention.  She crawls inside and eats one for her breakfast.

Her older brother, dancing to tunes heard through his headset attached to a music player, puts the lid on the basket and loads it on the back of his bicycle.  Does he see the baby?  He does not.  He pedals his bike, riding down the less than smooth road.

As they travel toward Baba's home, the baby in the basket with the bananas sees many things along the road starting with the letter "b".  The lid is lost when a curious baboon steals it.  Groups of people on foot and riding in a vehicle wait to cross the bridge over a stream.

Baba's home and the flowers around it use the letter "b" to name them.  Who do you think is more surprised to see the baby inside the basket of bananas?  Baba?  Brother? After a snack, brother and baby sister return home through a bounty of words beginning with the letter "b".

As you read each sentence, B is for  ____, you do so with appreciation for the manner in which author and storyteller Atinuke connects them together.  She takes us through an entire day using only words beginning with a single letter.  We begin at one home, travel down a road, arrive at another home and circle back to the beginning.  It's a brilliant use of a figure of speech.  Supplying punctuation, periods, exclamation points and a question mark, adds to the cadence of the narrative.

How can you look at the front of the matching dust jacket and book case without smiling?  I'm positive I can hear the giggles of a baby.  This adorable child, in her colorful clothes, is downright huggable.  To the left, on the back, her older brother, listening to his music, has grasped her hands and is dancing with her.  The creme canvas showcases the bright, lively hues in the children's clothing.

Shades of red and creme are used in a vibrant pattern on the opening and closing endpapers.  It's an enlarged version of the cloth used in the mother's dress.  With a page turn a double-page illustration spreads across the verso and title pages.  It shows the family's house with the mother holding her baby in the foreground on the right.  The scene, especially with all the people on the porch of the house, reflects a happy home.

Using mixed media on a white background, artist Angela Brooksbank supplies readers with lush images, some double-page pictures and others full-page images.  To supply readers with pacing, several smaller illustrations are also grouped together on a single page.  To give readers a sense of the objects noted, our point of view is close.  For us to appreciate the flora and fauna, Angela Brooksbank gives us a larger perspective, at times at bird's eye view. 

Every picture is fully animated (except for one).  We feel as though we've been invited to join the story.  Readers will pause on many of the pages to further savor the wonderful elements.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for B is for Baboon.  It is a double-page picture.  A single tree trunk extends from the grass on the left with branches arching along the top of both pages.  A troop of baboons are sitting on or hanging from the limbs.  Up close on the left, one baboon is holding the lid for the basket it grabbed as the bicycle passed.  On the right the brother is riding along, listening to his music and smiling, oblivious to his surroundings.  On the back of the bicycle, the baby is looking rather surprised, nestled as she is among the bananas.

B Is for Baby written by Atinuke with illustrations by Angela Brooksbank is a treasure of an alphabet book for its word play and for the revealed story.  For those not familiar with the setting or some of the words, it's a fabulous title to use for expanding vocabulary and knowledge of places unlike your own.  This book is highly recommended for your personal and professional book collections.

To learn more about Atinuke and Angela Brooksbank and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Atinuke has an account on Facebook.  Angela Brooksbank has an account on Instagram.  At the publisher's website you can view an interior image.  At Penguin Random House you can view the endpapers, verso and title pages and the first double-page picture.  Author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson features this book on her site, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

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