In this quaint debut combination of fantasy and phonetics from a veteran educator, a teacher introduces her classroom to the Alphabet Elves from Vowel Island to help students learn to sound out words.
Miss Oliver surprises her beginning readers with a visit from the magical ALPHAS, elfin residents of Vowel Island off the Consonant Coast. These members of the Alphabet Elves family are usually invisible to the human eye, but with some extra imagining on the part of Miss Oliver’s students, the ALPHAS (Alfie, Elsie, Izzy, Ozzy and Um) pop into view. Miss Oliver informs the class that though the consonant BETAS “can only splutter, hiss, stutter, and hum, our ALPHAS are elegant. They make many lovely, different sounds, and with BETAS, they make something wonderful, WORDS!” The lessons begin with acrobatic Alfie’s short “A” sound. Elsie then explains that vowels also make “elongated, elegant sounds,” and she later points out that they make different sounds when combined with other letters and that they can be words by themselves. Elsie herself is “especially useful,” she notes, since she appears “more often than any other elf” and can change sounds of words and transform one word to another depending on where she appears. With gentle quirkiness, the author provides memory-sticking emphasis, as students join Alfie, who’s pretending to fly like an airplane while “singing his long ‘a’ sound…until he ran out of breath.” Tutu-wearing Isadora (Izzy for short) strikes a balletic pose to demonstrate just how important “I” can be, and Ozzy the “O” elf offers his short and long sounds before being goaded by Alfie to show that he “can be very negative” when placed after the “N.” The book’s small illustrations possess the colorful, awkward charm of a child’s drawings, but they—and the punctuation throughout the book’s 13 pages—could have used more polish. Misplaced or missing quotation marks, periods and commas call out for a closer proofreading.
Despite a few rough edges, this lesson in vowel sounds for beginning readers is infused with old-fashioned charm and solid phonetics.