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Book Reviews

Gulf Islands Alphabet

by Bronwyn Preece; Alex Walton, illus.

The beautiful and numerous Gulf Islands, lying between the eastern coast of Vancouver Island and mainland B.C., lend themselves well to this richly illustrated alphabet book. Resonant names such as Penelakut, Gabriola, and Salt Spring, arising from the histories of First Nations traditions, Spanish exploration, and English settlement, provide author Bronwyn Preece with an island for almost every letter of the alphabet. She works these names into sentences, using as many words as possible starting with the given letter. The results are often more clever than pleasing to the ear, and younger children might find the laboured text unsatisfying. Older children, on the other hand, may enjoy the exuberant piling up of alliterative words. 

Readers of all ages will delight in Alex Walton’s lush watercolour illustrations. The double-page spreads give a vivid sense of the islands’ land- and seascapes. Walton varies his scenes by employing unusual perspectives: we view islands through the curving frame of a ferry’s deck, look down on them from the height of an eagle’s nest, and gaze at them through ferns and boulders on the forest floor. On some pages we are underwater with jellyfish and kelp, looking up at children in a rowboat. The paintings are full of action, as boys leap into the sea off the Gabriola Galleries or sail a dinghy through the surging water of a narrows.  

Although this alphabet book celebrates a particular Canadian locale, readers anywhere will take pleasure in the colourful names and landscapes depicted in it.