Book Reviews: Sweet Shapes by Juana Medina and Alphabet Boats by Samantha R. Vamos

 

Reviewed by Dora M. Guzmán

The following books are amazing additions to your early concepts library! Each book introduces readers to shapes and letters by inviting them to explore diverse tastes and sights around the world.

 

Sweet ShapesDESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: In this delicious forest, the bears are made of rectangular brownies, the goldfinches are triangles of lemon tart, and the butterflies are oval jelly beans. What child could resist learning shapes from such delectable creatures as these? Collage artist Juana Medina has outdone herself with this array of tooth-achingly sweet animal desserts that come in all shapes and sizes.

MY TWO CENTS: This book takes the reader on a short and sweet (literally), path in the forest. It introduces different animals and compares their shape to decadent treats. A diverse group of animals include goldfinches and chipmunks, and sweets include baklava and carmelita. The mixed medium is interesting in this children’s book, and the use of photography in illustrating the sweets gives you an immediate sweet craving! There are also a variety of shapes that extend beyond your typical shapes like the parallelogram, oval, and crescent.

This book is a great fit for your early childhood readers who like sweets and animals. It introduces shapes in a different, yet playful manner, and it draws your eye to the positioning of treats and the animals’ silhouettes. The short and sweet text allows the reader to focus on the concepts of shapes. At the end of the book, the author shares a recipe for chocolate covered strawberries, because why not?! Overall, a great addition to your early concept collection of shape books.

TEACHING TIPS: This concept book pairs well with a five senses unit since you can use the bakery treats as realia after you read the book to your future bakers and chefs. There are other concept books in this series by Juana Medina that reinforce counting and ABCs.

 

Juana Medina

Photo: Silvia Baptiste © 2013

ABOUT THE AUTHOR-ILLUSTRATOR: Juana Medina may have over-indulged her sweet tooth doing the research for this book! Fortunately, her young twin sons keep her active at their home in Washington, D.C. A native of Colombia, Juana is the author-illustrator of 1 Big Salad, ABC Pasta, and the Pura Belpré winner Juana and Lucas. Please visit her and her work at www.juanamedina.com.

 

 

 

 


 

Alphabet BoatsDESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Discover twenty-six types of vessels, from the more common–canoe and motorboat–to the unusual–umiak and Q-boat. Just like in Alphabet Trucks and Alphabet Trains, colorful art includes the letters of the alphabet hidden (and not-so-hidden) in supporting roles in the illustrations. The text features familiar as well as unusual boats from around the world, packing in tons of instant kid appeal, and upper and lowercase letters are integrated into the action of the art rather than solely in the typography. Back matter includes age-appropriate facts about each featured boat.

MY TWO CENTS: Come on a rhyming ride through the alphabet on a boat! This is no ordinary trip as you will be immersed in a rich vocabulary of boat life around the world. There are various types of boats and they have various ways of moving through the water. For example, you have the barge, the gondola, and the umiak. The illustrations are crisp and detailed, which allow the reader to search for letters within the background. A must read in the classroom for all future sailors!

This book exceeded my expectations of an ABC book, especially in the use of technical vocabulary of boats and more. I definitely learned a lot about boats and their functional parts. While certain parts may become complex for readers who are not into boats, the text includes short phrases so that readers get small doses and remain engaged in the alphabet. A glossary is included in the back to expand on each boat’s description and use. Overall, this book is a great addition, as it invites readers to a new, and maybe familiar, world especially if they live near a body of water.

TEACHING TIPS: In addition to adding this book to your collection of ABC books, one can incorporate this in their phonemic awareness and writing lessons. After each letter introduction, there is a rhyming scheme that is great for phonemic awareness mini-lessons on rhyming and/or phonics lessons around word families. Readers can also go on a letter hunt as the illustrator has placed various letters across the pages. In writing, teachers can focus on using descriptive words that go beyond describing objects using color and size, like describing boats by their speed or the way they move in the water. Videos of each boat and their function are a wonderful supplement to this read aloud and lessons, as it will bring the boats to life. Easily paired with the rest of the author and illustrator’s books around the alphabet!

ABOUT THE AUTHORSamantha R. Vamos is the author of Alphabet Trains, Alphabet Trucks, and The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred, a Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book. Samantha and her family live in Northern California. Samantha’s favorite boats are the iceboat and the Very Slender Vessel. www.samanthavamos.com

 

 

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATORRyan R. O’Rourke illustrated Alphabet Trains, Alphabet Trucks, and Eight Days Gone by Linda Reynolds. He both wrote and illustrated Bella Lost and Found. His art has appeared in galleries, newspapers, and magazines. Including a weekly illustration for the Boston Globe Magazine. Ryan lives in New Hampshire. www.ryanorourke.com

 

 

 

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ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Dora M. Guzmán is a bilingual reading specialist for grades K-5 and also teaches college courses in Children’s Literature and Teaching Beginning Literacy. She is currently a doctoral student with a major in Reading and Language. When she is not sharing her love of reading with her students, you can find her in the nearest library, bookstore, or online, finding more great reads to add to her never ending “to read” pile!

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