CM Archive
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Ann Blades.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 1985.
unpaged, cloth, $12.95.
ISBN 0919964-74-5. CIP.

Subject Heading:
English language-Alphabet-Juvenile literature.

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 3-6

Reviewed by Joan Weller.

Volume 14 Number 2
1986 March

Welcoming a new picture book by this award-winning writer-artist is a pleasure. It has been some time since Ann Blades brought us Mary of Mile 18 ¹, A Boy of Cache (Tundra, 1973), The Cottage at Crescent Beach ², and memorable illustrated books by other authors. Her poster for the Pacific Rim conference on children's literature (1976) is prized by many who attended.

By the Sea: An Alphabet Book epitomizes everything that characterizes the best in Ann Blades: simplicity, sensitivity, warmth, and a gentle spirit. She has pared her ABC down to one meaningful word for each seaside illustration. Upper and lower case letters are given for such words as "airplane" , "ball" , "crab", "fish", "oar", and "whale" to name a few. As the pages are turned, this ABC takes on the characteristics of a story for little ones. Each word suggests the illustrated activity. Picture-readers follow young children through a typical, sunlit day at the beach. Their ensuing activities, playing with their beach ball, fishing, eating, swimming, and building a sandcastle, culminate in a closing scene showing them sleeping "ZZZZZ" on a multicoloured quilt on the beach.

The full-paged, coloured illustrations accompany letters and words in large, clear type. The pictures are wonderful watercolours. They capture, as a camera would, each scenario. Against a background of soft washes, patches of bright colour highlight each activity. The peaceful serenity of the seaside is held as though in slow motion, creating a relaxed, lingering atmosphere. As in her other human figures, Blades's children take on an appealing innocence and universal appearance. Her beach could be any beach; her children any children. One only wishes a multi-racial representation appeared as well. The last two pages list the illustrated words in both upper and lower case type. Care has been given to the overall design of this outstanding ABC book. Recommended for all libraries.

Joan Weller, Ottawa P.L., Ottawa, ON.

¹ Reviewed vol.1 1971, p.20.
² Reviewed vol. VI/3 Summer 1978, p.164.

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