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Friday, December 30, 2016

Lines, Squiggles, Letters, Words, written by Ruth Rocha and illustrated by Madalena Matoso. Enchanted Lion Books, Publishers Group Canada. 2016. $24.50 ages 4 and up

"From his window and
along the streets, Pedro
saw all kinds of posters,
billboards, and signs. He
could understand some of
what he saw, like the
pictures of tigers, apples
and roosters.

But there were other pictures
that Pedro didn't understand."

Learning to read can be difficult and it takes time. In this book about a little boy who is just beginning to understand literacy, we watch Pedro as he carefully observes all that is going on around him. Pictures, posters, signs are evident wherever he looks. Some of the pictures are easy to understand, others make no sense at all. Street corners befuddle him, as does the bus route banner that tells he and him mother which one to board.

His mother is very patient with her explanations, and encouraging of his learning:

"One day, Pedro's mother told him, "Tomorrow you
will be starting school! You will learn to read and
you will understand many more things."
"What things, Mom?" Pedro asked.
"Well, to begin with, the letters and numbers
you are always asking about."

She's right, of course. As Pedro learns each new letter, he begins to see them all around him. Although we know that reading is about more than just knowing the letters of the alphabet, that knowledge is an important part and a big incentive to a child's awareness of what reading is. Pedro's joy in the knowledge and his constant search for what he is learning as he and his mother make their way in the world is infectious and joyful.

Madalena Matoso's gorgeous and meaningful artwork, done in a palette of red, black, olive, blue and pink, shows an awareness of the print environment that surrounds us, and our young children. It is sure to encourage those who share the book to have a closer look around them and to find meaning there. Skilled readers may find themselves returning to a time when they too saw 'lines, squiggles', then 'letters, words.'  It is worth a very careful look!

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