Tuesday, February 16, 2010


It is rare to find a picture book that engages readers at every age but Animalia by Graeme Base is just such a treasure. Animalia is part alphabet book, tongue twister, and treasure hunt all rolled into one. The reader is introduced to the letter A with a riotous illustration accompanying the caption, "An Armoured Armadillo Avoiding an Angry Alligator." The illustration for this is no simple scene of one or two items but rather a mural of wonders that all begin with the target letter. On the first page, the reader will find the obvious alligator and armadillo but much like an "I Spy" book, there are dozens of other items to find. In addition to the alphabetical workout, the reader is also instructed to find the author on each page.

This book is a treasure on many levels. It introduces young ones to the wonder of the alphabet through clever illustrations and lyrical, tongue twisting prose. Non-readers will enjoy finding the author on each page and finding the humorous touches in each picture (like a bassoon-playing baboon). For a great vocabulary building activity, parents can have their kids find the items they name. Older kids can identify items for themselves. This is a great reinforcement of phonics and beginning sounds. For the older student, the entire book is a first-rate example of alliteration. For an enrichment activity, have your kids try their hand at their own alliterative phrases. Add some illustrations and when the alphabet is done, they'll have a fun book of their own you could have comb bound at a printer.

For the serious treasure hunter, take notes on all the items for each letter (make sure to leave yourself room for later additions as you will assuredly find more and more as you read and reread this book). You could also start a list of vocabulary words to have your child look up in a dictionary. Diabolical, ingenious, improvising, meticulous, nautical, ventriloquist, vociferous, verbosity are just a few of the words you'll encounter along the way.

Are you studying parts of speech? Go on a word hunt throughout the book looking for nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives.

Of course, the book is enjoyable just as a picture book but you will find that it will grow right along with your child and you will continue finding new and exciting literary adventures every time you read it!

I do want to provide one warning. On the "g" page, there is a small ghost, "v" has a small face of a vampire, and "w" has a witch. Thankfully these images are NOT the focus of the page. They are either in the shadows or so small to be hardly noticeable (although with multiple readings, the observant child will undoubtedly discover them). In spite of these images, I believe the book still has merit. You could easily cover over those images with a small piece of paper or post-it. Or you could allow the images to prompt a discussion with older children about those topics so prevalent in our society today.

If you enjoy Animalia, then I would also highly recommend the book, "Eleventh Hour." Once again, the illustrations can be enjoyed by any age but the book is also a massive riddle with secret messages on each page that lead to the solution of a mystery. Incredibly detailed animals hold center stage and have no fear, the answers are provided (in a sealed section at the back of the book to discourage peeking). Don't rush through this one because the delight in finding the obscure is so worth it. In our home, these books have provided hours of enjoyment for parent and child alike.


1 comment:

The Sunshine Crew said...

Animalia is a cool book! We have it and the boys love it. Thanks for sharing about this book.

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