Look at this cover.
Now, look again.
This is a great example of illustrator, Geoff Cook's self-defined quirky sense of humor. The illustrations in D is For Down Under: An Australian Alphabet are just part of what will engage readers in a book that is part of Sleeping Bear Press's Discover the World series. The text by Devin Scillian combines poems for young readers and longer exposition for students in grades 2-4. Facts, trivia, and history are packed into spreads about every letter of the alphabet.
The perfect opening for this book is A for Aboriginal People. The reader immediately learns of the ancient people who first populated this island continent. Their art, music, and traditions still influence Australian culture.
The following pages contain both familiar facts and unusual information that will entertain and educate. Take "G" for example. You probably would expect that in a book about Australia, G might be for the Great Barrier Reef:
You're swimming round in snorkel and mask staring in disbelief,
surrounded by our letter G, the Great Barrier Reef.
Sharks and starfish turtles and whales, fish of every size.
The colors of the rainbow parade before your eyes.
In the same way, you might guess that K would be for kangaroos, koalas, and kookaburras.
But, would you have guessed that E is for Echidna? This spiny anteater rolls up into a ball to defend himself and is only found in Australia, New Zealand, and New Guinea.
Maybe you have heard of a Jackaroo, but I guarantee the illustration of this modern farmhand will get some laughs out of young readers!
Q is for Qantas Airline--what else? Here's another example of Geoff's artistic humor and Scillian's poetry:
Do you know what Vegemite is? It's a brown sticky paste that Australians and New Zealanders love to eat on toast. It tastes salty and slightly bitter and apparently is a treat that the rest of the world doesn't quite appreciate.
W is for Waltzing Matilda. I remember singing this folk song in elementary school--without a clue as to what the words mean!
All of the other letters of the alphabet are appropriately honored with their contributions to Australia's landscape and people. This book would make a great classroom resource as well as a fantastic read-aloud at home or in a library.
I am giving away one copy of D is For Down Under through my blog, and another through the spring issue of Talking Story on Australasia. Leave a comment on my blog (along with your email address if you are new to my blog) for one chance to win. Leave another comment through the link provided in Talking Story and you'll be entered twice. (Tip: You'll find other giveaways through the newsletter too!) Winners will be drawn on April 25.