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Review | Letters of the West By Michelle E. Walch and John Maddin

Posted by Rebecca G. Aguilar, M.Ed. on September 12, 2014

Letters of the West By Michelle E. Walch and John Maddin

ISBN-13: 9781940052106
Publisher: Craigmore Creations
Publication date: 9/1/2014
Pages: 32

The alphabet book has become a ubiquitous teaching resource. What classroom can carry on without book talks or read-alouds?

History, art, music, math, science and sports topics have made for brilliant versions of the abecedary that serve as appealing reference materials for learning content. Think Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert (Harcourt Children’s Books, 1989) and the connections it might generate in a unit on botany or world cultures.

Considering the popularity of regionally themed alphabet books like L is for Lone Star from Sleeping Bear Press, independent publisher Craigmore Creations hoped to bring engaging educational materials about natural history to readers.

Fixtures in Oregon’s artistic community, writer Michelle E. Walch and illustrator John Maddin collaborated on a book cataloguing their experiences in nature on hikes along the Pacific coast. The result is the picture-perfect Letters of the West: An ABC Book of the Many Plants, Animals and Other Curious Features of the West.

The newest addition to Craigmore Creations’ Little Naturalist Series©, Letters of the West opens with an affectionate A is for Alpenglow and ends with a zany Z is for Zigzag. Walch and Maddin write that alpenglow is the rosy sunrise or sunset that highlights a mountain range. Zigzag is the name of a town in Oregon along the road to Mt. Hood.

The authors take great care recalling what they have discovered about the Pacific coast from British Columbia to Baja California. Simple, but fond prose is used to write about animals like the Great Blue Heron, Spotted Owl and California Quail and plants like the Kinnikinnik, Trillium and Yucca.

Images are rendered in Maddin’s gorgeous scratchboard art. Each element that makes the book special has the effect of moving readers to encounter nature in their own hikes.

The publisher might have received bonus points with the inclusion of a glossary, bibliography and index. The authors could have listed, added or expounded on sources and materials used to develop their content. Despite the lack of this important nonfiction back-matter, Letters of the West still has merits.

Letters of the West by Michelle E. Walch and John Maddin is a worthwhile read, a gorgeous abecedary and relevant classroom resource on the flora, fauna and features of the Western wilderness.

Category: Children's Nonfiction, Natural History

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