PLAY MAS'! by Dirk McLean


A Carnival ABC
by & illustrated by
Age Range: 5 - 9
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McLean and Stone, Trinidad-born residents of Toronto, introduce Carnival in an artistically attractive picture book. But the continuity of events in this exciting, pre-Lent festival is sacrificed to the alphabetical format, and the alliterative text is sometimes awkward. McLean presents information in a brief text, introduction, and endnotes, but questions arise that are not always answered. For example, the text for J says, “Jab Molassi (a celebrant) jump up J’ouvert morning before the judges.” While “J’ouvert” is explained in the note, knowledge of the fact that “jump up” means going up on stage is assumed. And the note for X discusses the nature of the dance, but never connects it to the “Xante style” mentioned in the text. Pen and ink and watercolor-like paintings enclosed by yellow framing are alive with vibrant tropical colors. They portray bands, dancers, singers, food, and exotic costumes in a Caribbean setting, but curiously show few children as participants, even in the “Kiddies Carnival” picture. Adding fun, they contain hidden letters and objects that begin with each letter, but many of the words are beyond the experience of a picture book audience unfamiliar with Carnival. The letters are presented in both upper and lower case in squares at either end of the text. This book can be paired with Lynn Joseph’s Jump Up Time: A Trinidad Carnival Story (1998), but first set the stage by reading George Ancona’s stunning photo essay, Carnaval (not reviewed), which is more child-focused and provides a clearer sequence of events from the months of preparation through the days of celebration. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: March 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-88776-486-X
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Tundra
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2000