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I home educate my children, but I teach as little as possible. That may sound like a contradiction in terms, but rather than actively instructing my children, wherever possible I prefer to set up the environment and allow them to discover things for themselves. This isn't nearly as lazy as it sounds, in fact it takes a lot more time than sitting down with flash cards, but I want learning to relevant to them, and I want them to enjoy discovering new things. So - since my youngest still has not got a complete grasp on the all the letter names and sounds ( I go against conventional wisdom by using both together), I do not feel ready to dig out the flash cards, but instead have saturated the house with alphabet toys and books. My son has no interest in the traditional A is for apple type books, and since I do not want to force him to study yet, I am stuck searching for books that teach the alphabet, but are also engaging enough that children want to listen to book. This book certainly fits the bill, as not only does my 4 year old enjoy this, my 8 year old likes the book as well.
Alphasaurs has a very unique style of illustration. Each dinosaur or prehistoric reptile is made up only of the first letter of that creatures name. So Allosaurus is drawn only using only the letter A in upper and lower cases and of different sizes. This seems like an impossible task, but the artists has really created beautiful black and white pictures using only letters. In addition to the dinosaur being made of letters, there are facts on each animal as well. These facts are told in a highly alliterative verse, using the featured letter over and over. The letter is also drawn into the smaller illustrations with the facts, so the book tells us Allosaurus were both angry and aggressive, with capital A's drawn into angry faces. Fruitadens lived in a forest and the forest is drawn with the letter f for the the trunks of each tree, and the letter P forms the branches of pine for the Parasaurolophus.
I absolutely loved this book, so much so that I ordered the author/ illustrators other alphabet book and her numbers book as well. This book is really fun to read and both boys enjoy it, but at the same time, the letter shape sound are repeated over and over. This could become irritating if it were less skilfully executed, but the result here is a book that has a pleasant, almost poetic sound to the reading, has beautiful artwork, and has facts that are both interesting and educational. A younger child can learn the alphabet from this, an older child can learn more about the different types of dinosaurs as well as being exposed to a novel art form.
As much as I love this book for younger children, I feel it would be even better for older children who have learned their alphabet. I have known teenagers who have not yet learned their ABC's. No teenager wants to sit down with baby books. This is a book that could at least interest and engage an older child, all the while saturating their minds with images and sounds of the letters.
This is available only in hardback, and is rather expensive at £10.23 new and delivered from the Book Depository or £11.19 from Amazon. Amazon Marketplace sellers are rather strangely asking more for used copies than a new copy would cost, but I would caution buying this in anything less than Very good condition anyway. The pages for this book are far thicker than most, and very unlikely to tear, but there are a number of flaps which fold out to show a dinosaur with extended neck or tail - or perhaps a very large open mouth. While these are sturdy and well made, we all know that such things can be torn or bent with careless handling. This is not a book that will be damaged by a child who knows how to treat books, but neither is it one to be carelessly thrown in the bottom of a toy box.
I would recommend this book for children as young as age 1, as I feel the unique and eye catching illustrations are apt to hold even a very young child's interest, and as long a parent is helping, younger children will love opening the flaps and seeing the larger dinosaurs. Older children can still enjoy the facts about dinosaurs, and I have to admit, I found the illustrations fascinating myself. As this book is best suited to children just learning the alphabet though, and was bought for my four year old I thought I would close with his opinion. He says he really likes how they made the dinosaurs out of letters. He also asked if we could read this book every night, and if he could have the other two book shown on the dust jacket. He says this book is the best because it has lots of good dinosaurs, including Parasaurolphus ( his favourite), it helps him learn his ABC's, the flaps are very good and it is fun to listen to. His only complaint is that he feels the Lambesaurus looks more like a Corythosaurus, which I hadn't noticed myself, but closer inspection alongside several pictures of both species seems to prove him right.