Themed alphabet books are like the Little Engine that Could—they just keep on comin’.
This one is based on the author/illustrator’s personal experience in Kenya. A young man named Kay Kay promises the children at a new school in his village that he will paint the plain white walls with animals from A to Z. As he walks along looking for inspiration, he meets groups of animals too busy at playing “jackstones” or reading riddles to help. They are obvious (to readers) choices, though Kay Kay doesn’t realize it. As he continues his jaunt, each threesome of animals joins in the trek behind him, ending in a complete animal alphabet. The animals he encounters are highlighted in green: “ ‘Kay Kay, come dance with us!’ shouted Baboon, Crocodile, and Dragonfly.” Most of these animals are relatively familiar, with the possible exceptions of Nyala, Quagga, Upupa Bird, Vervet and Xerus Squirrel. The loosely energetic, cartoon illustrations are lively with capricious details. The backmatter includes a glossary of typical Swahili words such as “please” and “bathroom,” as well as such comic phrases as “My brother picks his nose” and “No more broccoli, thank you.” There is also an author’s note, photos of the real Kay Kay and the Star of Hope School, and a map, but unfortunately there is no key to the animal names.
Kids will enjoy the silliness, and there’s lots of potential for the classroom. (Picture book. 6-8)