Using a combination of Russian and English words to fit into the English alphabet structure, the author tries to summon up a grand picture of Mother Russia.
Most pages have one large color photo, generous white space, a line of traditional embroidery design that matches the color of the design behind each set of English letters—capitals and smalls—and a narrow photo border. (The Cyrillic letters are not used—an unfortunate choice, as that might have made the book more interesting.) A short paragraph describes each photo. The emphasis is on Russia today, although references to the Kremlin, the Winter Palace and the Queen (or Tsaritsa) allude to the past. The Communist period is obliterated, although the Revolution is mentioned. Bowing to children’s interests, topics include: “G is for Gymnastics,” “M is for Matryoshka” (nesting dolls), “Y is for Youth Club” and “Z is for Zenit,” a famous football club (soccer team). Meant for the armchair traveler or for introducing a social studies unit, this skims the surface of this largest country on Earth.
The series is starting to suffer from its now-overfamiliar pattern, but those seeking a glossy, positive image of Russia complete with “E is for Easter eggs” (with its wooden folk-art eggs contrasted with Fabergé eggs), can glean a sense of contemporary life and the rich history behind it. (Informational photo essay. 6-9)