A Seaside Alphabet (words by Donna Grassby and pictures by Susan Tooke) was one of the earliest books we bought for Owen, purchased in Halifax at Woozles, a wonderful children’s bookstore still full of warm childhood memories for Duncan. (On that note, Duncan met Sharon, Lois, and Bram at Woozles some time in the 80s… and was photographed with them – as he says, picking his nose. I think he’s just being coy).
Anyway, the book was way too mature for Owen when we bought it (he was 3 months old). Recently, however, to my delight, he has started choosing it for bedtime and naptime reading. He’s excited about books that become treasure hunts, and this one has such detailed images that I keep discovering new things every time we read it. My favourite books are always the ones that the parent wants to read it as much as the child – really detailed pictures (like Peepo or 123) prevent boredom in ways that some of the “pet the fuzzy dog” books just can’t.
A Seaside Alphabet manages reasonable alliterative sentences using words and images from the East Coast of Canada and the USA. On the cover, “Lovely ladies lunch on lobster in the lee of the lighthouse.” Inside, “Balmy breezes blow Bluenose II by Boston,” “Quiet craft queue in Pasamaquoddy Bay,” and “An unruly undertow upends Ursula.”
The pictures, however, are even more fun, because in each picture there are more words starting with that letter to find (there’s a list at the back, but we don’t look much). On the “Q” page, for example, I just noticed Queen Anne’s lace and a quarter on the edge of the frame, and the little girl is carrying a quilt.
On the M page, pictured here, there’s a melon, mussels, a mollusk, matches, a man, etc. What’s fun is that while Owen might need to have something pointed out to him once, he doesn’t seem to forget, and has now started flipping between pages to find the two raccoons (one on the “R” page and another under “W” for wetland wildlife).
The book also reminds me of our lovely summers past and future in Nova Scotia (where Duncan’s parents and Owen’s grandparents live). It’s especially important for Duncan that Owen forge a connection with the sea, so this book, if nothing else, familiarizes Owen with the sights and vocabulary of the Maritime landscape. We’re heading out there this summer and when we go, Owen will be well versed in words like Musquodoboit and Kejimkujik. Important, that.