“Kate and Nate bake a cake for Grandpa Jake.”
Kate and Nate are snails, three-dimensional characters crafted out of wool and adorned with real shells on their backs. When they see a fabric snake, they are very scared and try to evade him with one of the modes of transportation available—trains, planes, and boats. (Little do they know that he is Grandpa Jake’s “great mate.”) A real wooded area serves as backdrop; it almost seems as if the photos are movie stills, but the scenes have been specifically constructed for this volume, one of a growing series with one simple aim: to teach phonics by introducing one sound at a time. This volume introduces the long “a” with commonplace words like “place,” “plate,” “sail,” and “trail.” The pictures are intriguing and use many different kinds of materials and objects, including a real lit candle atop the cake, a toy wooden rolling pin, and a graceful toy boat with a beautiful sail with a very handsome snail design. Young readers will pore over the pages, perhaps trying to figure out how they might create such scenes. In the meantime, they will probably absorb the lesson and learn some decoding skills. Two story-starter ideas round out the volume. Four other titles publish simultaneously: Blues for Unicorn, Go Home, Goat, Greedy Beetle, and Lion Spies a Tiger.
It’s much better than a phonics worksheet, but it’s a shame these photos serve such dull storytelling. (Early reader. 4-6)