“ Paperback: 32 pages / Publisher: A+ Books / Published: Dec 2009 „
This book has terrible ratings as well as several warnings of "Not Suitable for Children", as many people felt this book would be to scary for little ones. This was the main reason I bought the book. I loved banned books, unsuitable books and different books, and my children do enjoy spooky things. And no matter what the old saying says about judging a book by its cover, I often do anyway. This has a lovely cover illustration. Not at all frightening, but beautiful all the same.
This is yet another ABC book. My youngest is 4, and while he is still working on letter names and sounds, he usually takes very little interest in traditional alphabet books, so I have really gone out of my way to find unusual ones, which coincide with his own taste in books. As he particularly likes dinosaurs and monsters, I especially look for books on either of these subjects.
This book definitely qualifies as unusual. It is produced by Capstone Press, a division of the American Coughlan Companies. This groups has a rather unusual history, beginning with an Irish Immigrant who set up a stone quarry in 1883, and jumping from one industry to the next with remarkably good timing. In 1990 the company turned to publishing focusing on the educational market. They acquired Heinmann and Raintree, and developed a few of their own divisions. The Capstone division is specifically aimed at emergent readers, reluctant readers, and struggling readers.
I absolutely love the idea that they have created alphabet books which can appeal to older children learning to read. They have a very wide range of unique alphabet books 'A is for Arr! A Pirate Alphabet', 'P is for Pom Pom! A Cheerleading Alphabet' and 'Z is for Zoom! A Race Car Alphabet!' in addition to this title. There are several other specialised ABC books including ones for farms, sea life, pets, dogs, rain forest, wild animals, weather, and even homes around the world. Sadly, they do not do dinosaurs, but with such a wide choice, there is very good chance of finding something for almost every child.
I quite like the formatting of these books as well. I have checked a few other titles online and they all seem to follow the same formula as this book. Both uppercase and lowercase letters are highlighted, but in stead of the usual " A a" and then opening line they use both upper and lower case, in a different colour from the main text in the first line. For example, our book reads " R is for rat". The main text is white on black, but the letters R & r are both shown in yellow. Of course this colour combo is not considered ideal for children just learning to read, but if they are learning the alphabet, i am assuming an adult will be reading and the letters do stand out very well.
So far everything sounds very good, and I still believe this is a brilliant concept - so where does it all fall down? To start with, this is illustrated entirely with photographs. Some of these are very good, like the cover photo, the ones for lightning, rats and tarantula. But some are mediocre, and many are absolutely awful. The vampire is simply a very silly fellow in a Halloween costume with poorly done make up. The knife thrower is laughable with a a dopey looking fellow with an empty grin on his face and a costumed assistance with an obviously false look of fear. The witch and zombie are also rather poor Halloween costumes, although at least the zombie picture is darkened enough to cover up many flaws.
In addition to poor photography, they really don't seem to have put much effort into finding interesting subject matter. Obviously they couldn't think of anything for "U", so they just made do with "unlit" using a very dull photo of a darkened alley. The letter "N" simply has a girl in bed. Nothing frightening, but a title "N is for nightmare", and a little line about scary dreams. I suppose the worst is "E is for eye". My sons asked what was scary about that. I have no idea. This same trends continues with too many pages to list.
The text is also uninspired. It isn't terrible, but it isn't good either. A few give a few lines of facts about animals such as rats or bats. Others will have some very bland facts about the monster or other item on the page. For instance a few lines about a witch mixing a potion with a "mutt's tongue" ( dog would be more familiar to most young children) spider eyes and snake guts which can turn you into a newt. My sons found this pointless.
For all my complaints, my sons did enjoy reading this the first time. they liked some of the pictures, and they especially enjoyed trying to count the bats before giving up with the very precise number " a lot". The photo is of a cave ceiling covered with bats. They liked the snake, lightning, rats, and wolf as well as a lovely picture of fireworks. But they both ( ages 4 and 8) commented on how fake the monsters looked, and neither was very interested in the text.
I honestly can not see what all the fuss was over this book. It certainly is not anything to frighten an average child. The knife thrower was singled out the most often as making this book unsuitable. It isn't at all scary - it is so very false, it really is just a waste of space. But I do have one objection to this page as well. Knife is a terrible word to illustrate the K sound with. Other than that - if you child is not frightened by people in poor Halloween costumes, I wouldn't worry about this book scaring them. I would class this as much less frightening than your average fancy dress party.
This book sells for £4.99 new and delivered from Amazon, with new copies available for slightly less through Amazon Marketplace, and once again used copies selling for more than new. I do think this book would be of some use in a classroom, e as it is interesting enough to read once or twice, and might be fun for Halloween. I can also see it being of some use for a much older child learning their alphabet. As I have known several children over age 8, who did not know their letters, I can see this book being a better alternative for these children than the usual alphabet books, which are often very babyish. for this reason I have given this 3 stars.
I'm sure we will read this once in awhile, but had I known how poor the illustration would be, I would not have bought this.