Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Each Peach Pear Plum

Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg is a classic that I knew about, but largely overlooked when I was working as a librarian. The pictures are much too detailed for a large storytime audience, so it managed to fly under my radar. Each illustration has an "I Spy" element related to a fairy tale or nursery rhyme. For instance, on one page you see Mother Hubbard and are asked to spy Cinderella whos outstretched hand wielding a feather duster you can see emerging from behind a pile of suitcases. The characters are never complicatedly hidden, so little ones can easily find them and experience a sense of accomplishment. The other details in the illustrations and on the cover page lend themselves to lots of discussion and make the books fun to look at over and over.

Since it assumes a knowledge of basic nursery rhymes and fairy tales, it both leads to other stories and reinforces a child's knowledge of these tales. (I'll save my soapbox rant on the importance of fairy tales and nursery rhymes to child development for another post.) This book is a bit advanced for Henry, but by the end of the year, he may be getting in to it. Kids from almost three up to age five or six will really get a kick out of it.

I have to mention that I was a bit surprised by two of the illlustrations. The first shows the Three Bears going hunting and Baby Bear accidentally shooting Baby Bunting's basket out of a tree. The second shows Robin Hood trying to shoot down the Wicked Witch with arrows. To be fair, many fairy tales and even some nursery rhymes contain violent imagery and I think that sanitizing them often robs them of their power. I'm personally not thrilled about the depiction of firearms and the necessary discussion of safety these illustrations will elicit in a book for such a young crowd, but the book has enough other merits that I'm trying to overlook it.

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