Monday, November 7, 2016

Non-Fiction Monday: The Alphabet from the Sky by Benedikt Gross & Joey Lee

The Alphabet from the Sky by Benedikt Gross & Joey Lee. 64 p. Price Stern Sloan/ Penguin Random House, September, 2016. 9781101995815. (Review from copy borrowed from public library)

Even though alphabet books are usually catalogued and shelved in the picture book section, technically, they are part of languages and should be found in the 400s. Exceptions are always made to cater to the needs of each particular library. Alphabet concept books might be more likely found by a parent or child browsing the picture book section. Personally, I lean toward cataloging them all as 400 so that a patron might see the variety and scope of choices. I happen to collect alphabet books and while my home library is not strictly ordered by the Dewey Decimal System, I have all my alphabet books together on the shelf.

I am definitely adding this one to my home library and probably to my school's.

Who isn't fascinated by aerial views? When do we really have the opportunity for bird's eye views? Even if we fly frequently, the view out of the tiny porthole window of a plane is tiny and relatively fleeting. And, except for take off and landing, really too high to identify much. 

This book is the result of a Kickstarter campaign by the co-authors, who want to map the Earth's typography. Yes. Typography. That's no typo. Not topography. What letters do roads, buildings, rivers and landforms make?

The result of Gross and Lee's inquiry is this beautiful book. Other than the introduction, there are very few words in this book. Readers are invited to "read the landscape." Each double-page spread has the words, "Find the __" in the upper left hand side of the spread and a small yellow box containing the name of each town, state and latitude and longitude over a map of the US on which the town is located. There are many towns in Florida, two in New Jersey, several from Pennsylvania, a couple from Michigan and Illinois, several from California and Wisconsin, Georgia and Texas are represented with one.

Each photograph is crisp and colorful and startling in clarity. The first entry was photographed over Lake Work, Florida. The reader is asked to find the "A." It's easy enough but one is also distracted by possibilities for other letters. Indeed, the A is part of a neighborhood in which the streets also seem to form the letters, U, F, L, E, J, Y, M, B, O, Q and N. Upon closer inspection of the photo, the neighborhoods appear to float on water!

The children you share this with might want to rush through the book in the excitement of the scavenger hunt. You should let them; but leave time and an invitation to return to each spread to linger. Build inferencing skills by asking, "What do you see?" 

Our small group of readers had trouble finding the L. They consulted the handy answer key at the end. Of course! Why hadn't they seen it? The final four pages contain a series of slightly-larger-than-thumbnail photos of additional letters. 

This book was great fun and I can see its use in a variety of ways. I would've loved a bit more information about each spot, like what actually is that Q-shaped building? Then again, what better way to spur research than a mystery? 

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