April 18, 2012

A Gardener's Alphabet

A Gardener's Alphabet
By Mary Azarian; illus. by author
3-4 Preschool Primary Sandpiper 32 pp.
 978-0618033805 Hardcover $16.00

There are countless alphabet books on the market, some perfectly suited to toddlers just learning their ABC's, and other's suited to preschoolers ready to step up their alphabet knowledge to the next level. A Gardener's Alphabet is a beautiful example of the latter, for though it is very much an alphabet book for older preschoolers, it also serves as an introduction to gardening and as a source of discussion, all while exposing preschoolers to subject specific words (topiary, manure) they might otherwise not encounter. Each letter receives a full page, never standing alone as in more remedial alphabet books but always appearing at the start of a word. The words are varied, with nouns (arbor, bulb) appearing in equal number with verbs (nibble, dig). The featured words also vary in difficulty with "xeriscape" appearing on the page opposite "yard". The words are never given formal definitions. They are simply illustrated with Azarian's incredible woodblock prints, and though it may be hard to believe, the illustrations are more than enough to communicate the meaning of even the most unknown concepts (Japanese garden). The prints, boldly defined in black and colored in with bright watercolors, are a visual feast. Each picture clearly shows the meaning of the featured word while still allowing room for parent-child discussion, ("Greenhouse" is a woman inside a glass house, watering her tropical plants as it snows outside). The result is a picture book that can be enjoyed for its illustrations alone, or for it's vocabulary-building, curiosity-inducing excellence. A wonderful book for preschoolers ready for the next alphabetic step and a treat for their parents too.

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