Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Favorite Alphabet Books Week - Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel

Text and Illustrations copyright © 2005 by Nick Bruel

Kitty was not always naughty; however, when her owner runs out of Kitty's cat food and offers her an assortment of healthy fruits and vegetables from A to Z, Kitty is not happy.

The finicky feline demonstrates her displeasure by wreacking havoc in the house.

Kitty's owner then runs an errand to the grocery store to purchase more of Kitty's favorite foods - a wacky assortment of foods from A to Z.

Kitty again becomes a well-behaved pet and attempts to make amends for her atrocious behavior.
Will tempermental Kitty stay good?.....

Bad Kitty is another one of  our favorite Alphabet books. Nick Bruel's illustrations of Kitty's antics are very comical to all three of the kids and to this parent! The kids like to point out that a fang protrudes from Kitty's mouth as she becomes irate. As a proud cat family, we can totally relate to extremely finicky feline behavior. If you are searching for an entertaining way for your kids to learn their ABCs, look no further than Bad Kitty.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Favorite Alphabet Books Week - Agent A to Agent Z by Andy Rash

Text and Illustrations copyright © 2004 by Andy Rash

There are 26 spies with names from A to Z. One of the 26 is thought to be a fake spy that has infiltrated the ranks. Agent A has been given a mission -  find out who it is.  How will this mission be accomplished? Agent A will spy on each agent. Each true agent, in the course of being observed, will engage in some action that has a word beginning with the letter of his name. "Huh?" you say. Well, read the following opening lines and it will make perfect sense.

Calling Secret Agent A.
Here's your mission for today:
Every spy who is official
uses words with his initial.
But one spy is out of line.
I need to know his name by nine.
That is all and best of luck,
and now this page will self-destruct!

Agent A, list in hand, sets off and notices the following:

Agent B correctly chooses
Blue, and so the Bomb defuses.
Agent E did not Expect
what happened when he pressed Eject.
Agent J decides he must
adjust his Jet pack's upward thrust.
Agent S subdues a Spy
by letting her Stiletto fly.
Agent A spies on all the agents before he discovers, in a surprising twist, the identity of  the "fake" agent.

I have a confession, ABC books usually do not appeal to me. As a general rule, I do not purchase them or even read them to my kids. I have such a strong preference for a plot, that a book with a list of words beginning with the 26 letters of the alphabet, no matter how beautifully illustrated, usually does nothing for me. There are simply too many great stories to read to my kids during their all too brief picture book stage for me to spend time on ABC books. Over the years, I have made a few exceptions to my rule and I am featuring 3 of the titles this week. These are great ABC books that my kids love and that I, surprisingly, really enjoy reading to them, repeatedly.

Agent A to Agent Z is unlike most alphabet books - it has a plot and a good one. My boys were unfamiliar with spies, so I provided background before the first reading. Throughout the first read, I found myself explaining "tranquilizing darts", "microfiche," "defuse," "incognito", "decode," "suction cups" etc. Those are pretty exciting words, so my boys were riveted. I am always pleased when a book introduces my children to a subject matter that is completely foreign to them. Immediately after the first read, the boys requested a second read, with my previous explanations making it easy to follow. The boys quickly began putting their newly gained knowledge and vocabulary to use.  They now spy on everyone and go on "missions" while "incognito" wearing Star Wars costumes.  These kids are like ninjas - they move without a sound. They carry binoculars; they stealthily track me through the house; they contact each other using walkie talkies and refer to themselves as Agent D and Agent E.

I asked the boys what words I should use in my review to describe Agent A to Agent Z and they said, "Supercool and Awesome."  I have to agree with them! At the time I purchased Agent A to Agent Z, my then 3 year old son did not yet recognize most of the uppercase letters. He quickly learned them all because he has read Agent A to Agent Z so frequently on his own. This  is a fun and unique story and a hit with young boys.  My little girl is also beginning to enjoy the story. As her mother, I thank Andy Rash for including a few female spies. Why should boys have all the adventures?

Note: At first glance, the male spies all appear identical with black trench coats and fedoras. My boys initially were confused as to which agent was which. After several reads you will notice that Andy Rash has made all the agents slightly different with distinct noses and eyes. The kids can now readily identify each of them. Agent A to Agent Z gets better with each read!