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*Alphabet Explosion!: Search and Count from Alien to Zebra* by John Nickle
Alphabet Explosion!: Search and Count from Alien to Zebra
by John Nickle
Ages 4-8 40 pages Schwartz and Wade September 2006 Hardcover    

What do a sledding squirrel, a striped snake, and a snowman holding a stop sign have in common? They all start with the letter S, of course.

John Nickle and the alphabet experts try to outsmart you on the pages of Alphabet Explosion!. Using an array of strategically arranged objects beginning with the same letter of the alphabet, the pictures they create incorporate a certain number of objects to be identified. Answers are given at the back of the book if you get stumped, but instructions for how to play and what to count are available at the beginning.

In Alphabet Explosion!, one page is devoted to every letter of the alphabet, filled with objects, colors, and actions that start with the same letter. For example, there are 22 objects on the A page. Readers can find an alligator wearing an apron, an alien holding an arrow, and an ant playing an accordion. Near the capital A is an acorn, and inside the small A is an apple. The objects that might be missed by younger readers include the antennae, the anvil, and the atom.

Although the author warns us it can be tricky at times to name every thing on every page, he gives clear instructions and examples about what to count and not count. For example, yo-yo would count as one word and four fish as two words, but the octopus suction cups don't count as O’s even though they resemble the letter in shape.

The book, with illustrations created using acrylic and spray paint on watercolor paper, can be read in any order and by children of many ages. They might want to start with the X page, where there are three X words to name, or on the S page with 47 things beginning with S. Older children can write down the objects they find, and added step that helps with spelling and vocabulary.

Whether young or old, children who read Alphabet Explosion! will learn more about the alphabet, increase their vocabulary, and expand their imagination! This will also probably be the only place where they will see a boxing bee, a duck dentist, and corncob car.

John Nickle makes impressive use of the alphabet here, incorporating an umbrella, a unicorn, and a pair of underwear into one picture, and a variety of ways to blend in capital and small letters on every page. Alphabet Explosion! is definitely a book you can play.

The author and illustrator of the picture books The Ant Bully and TV Rex, John Nickle’s illustrations appear in Judi Barrett’s books Never Take a Shark to the Dentist and Things That are Most in the World. His exhibitions have appeared in galleries in New York and Connecticut. He lives in New York.

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