This illustrated alphabet book by debut author Ruth Wellborn and debut illustrator Morgan Wellborn introduces readers to flora, fauna, people, and sights of the North American Arctic.
Abecedarian children’s books are thick on the ground, but this one stands out for its unusual theme and unexpected vocabulary. For each letter (E and F plus X and Y are combined), the book provides a complete alliterative sentence that refers to the nature and culture of the four North American Arctic regions: Alaska, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. For example, the text for the letter C reads, “A CARIBOU CALF CAPERS THROUGH CLUSTERS OF CLOUDBERRIES.” Each sentence is declarative, providing a consistent structure for the book. Full-color, nicely detailed illustrations show each element of the sentence in realistic, not cartoonish detail, making this book an excellent learning tool as well as beautiful. Vocabulary can be challenging; a “Glossary of Interesting Words” helps define unfamiliar terms, though in ways more suitable to older readers. In the C sentence, for example, cloudberries are described as “an herb native to alpine, Arctic tundra and boreal forests. They produce amber coloured edible fruit similar to a raspberry.” “Tundra” and “boreal,” however, aren’t defined. Other sentences are easier to construe, such as the entry for W: “A WALRUS’S WHISKERS WHITEN AS IT WAITS.” Of special interest are the entries relating to Arctic people and culture. For example, under U, “UNA’S ULU IS A VERY USEFUL UTENSIL,” the illustration shows an old woman slicing salmon with a curved blade, and the glossary explains that an “ulu (or woman’s knife) is a curved all-purpose knife used by the Inuit people. It has many uses and can be used to skin and clean animals, cut hair, prepare food, or trim blocks of snow and ice when building an igloo.” Helpful explanations like this take the book beyond the ABC category, making it appropriate for older readers doing some research. Also included are some statistics, a map, and two pages of “Interesting Facts About the North.”
A beautifully illustrated and original book that gives youngsters fascinating glimpses into Arctic life.