A host of strange and delightful creatures made from seeds, leaves and vines populates the pages of this first children’s book by the Masons (Recovering from the War, 1998).
As the book opens, the letter A, in upper- and lowercase, introduces Andy Acorncap, a strange creature made primarily of acorns, acorn caps and vines. For the letter B, the book offers small birds made of pine cones, twigs and other natural “litter.” And so the alphabet continues, each letter introducing a strange new version of a particular creature. Some are meant to represent real animals, such as birds, a caterpillar and owls; others are named after plants or trees, such as the Evergreens, who look like they are wearing flowing pine-needle capes, or the Magnoliacone, with its long beak and acorn eyes). The intriguing creatures are the book’s primary draw, but the first two descriptions start an alliterative trend that’s sadly dropped by the letter C: “Andy Acorncap ambled along. / The Bird babies be-bopped behind. / Clarice the Caterpillar inched along, singing a song.” Since the creatures aren’t instantly recognizable, the alliterative verbs might have helped younger readers identify the repeated sounds. A zigzag alphabet on the Z page provides a challenge for the preschool crowd, as they’re asked to trace a path from one lowercase letter to the next until they’ve traced the whole alphabet in order. Notes at the end share facts about the different plants and creatures, which vary from the useful (“Zygodactylic means two toes pointing forward and two pointing back”) to the fictional (“Unicorns do have blue horns”). A final page points out the different parts that make up each creature and the types of materials that Mason used to create them. Overall, the book may be less useful as an alphabet book than as an enticement to go out into nature and gather materials for crafts.
A book that will engage young readers with its unusual creatures and may inspire them to create their own.