David McLiman's Gone Wild: An Endangered Species Alphabet
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
An inappropriate alphabet book
Yeesh...a book that combines learning the alphabet with species extinction. At precisely what age do we need our kids to start feeling doomed and guilty?
There aren't many Caldecott books I can't bring myself to recommend, but this one is at the top of the list.
To give McLimans his due, the book did win a prestigious 2007 Caldecott Honor.
The kudos McLimans has received have to do with the beautiful graphic design and the awareness he raises about endangered species.
Important stuff. But doesn't an alphabet book sort of imply appropriateness for kids just beginning the process of learning to read? What's next? A book about how many acres of rainforest had to be burned down so that baby could have his strained peas?
McLimans' beautifully rendered letters would be a little too distracting for alphabet learners. What four year old can focus on an "F" when that F looks like a mommy and a baby flamingo? (An endangered Andean flamingo. Latin name phoenicoparrus andinus. See if your child can pronounce that!)
Each black and white letter is accompanied by a box telling about the Class, Habitat, Range and Endangered Species Status of the doomed creature, as well as the threats facing it. Sing along with me...
A, B, C, D, E, F, G
See Giraffe go R.I.P.
Okay, I've had enough fun at Gone Wild's expense. (Emphasis on the Gone.) There are certainly contexts where this book would be appropriate, and the author-illustrator is trying to raise awareness. I'm all for that, and I'm a consistent contributor to such causes. But if you're looking for a real alphabet book for your pre-schooler, I have other ones to recommend, all reviewed onsite.
More Caldecott winners.
More of Steve's reviews.
Best Children's Books - Find, Read or Write home page.