- Book Style: Educational book for toddlers
- Reading Level: 2 (Read with Help due to: some mid-level vocabulary)
- Reading Length: 7-10 minutes (FYI – we never account for toddler questions)
- Illustration Style: A very renaissance style, duo-chrome
- Age Target: 0-5 Years of Age
A French Quarter Alphabet is a toddler aged alphabet book written by Christine Achille Gunter. Christine has written this book in what I would say is an homage to the wonderful city of New Orleans. It`s a unique take on an ABC book, as you won`t find the standard A is for Apple, or B is for Boy in this book. Instead, you and your little one will find a number of items that can only be described as cultural icons of New Orleans. Each monument or cultural icon is used to depict the letters of the alphabet
There are few things in the world of books that brings the world of reading together. One of those things is a truly holistic approach to the art. In the case of A French Quarter Alphabet, our author has really thought through everything about what could be viewed as a relatively simplistic book. Instead, the book appears sophisticated and incredibly detailed through the myriad of choices made through the crafting of the book. What do I mean by this? Let me count the ways….
When I first opened up the book, I found myself immersed in a very stylish book. I found myself staring at the pictures on each page to try and gain a true understanding of what I was looking at. Often times, I found myself intrigued because I was looking at something I didn’t know. See, I couldn’t have told you what beignets were, until I looked them up.
Another thing that proved just how well the book was thought out was the number of cultural references made throughout. Not only does our author show us the incredible culture of New Orleans, but she also uses it as a very powerful teaching tool. Using the beignet example again, I’m sure you can imagine just how many toddlers are going to ask what that means. I know that mine did, and as he did, I found myself explaining the fact that multiple languages exist. I watched him as his mind literally exploded as the concept of an entirely new way to speak hit home.
Finally, there is an impressive level of creativity that went into the book. There are a number of items that I’d like to point out in that regard:
- The illustrations very much fit the persona of New Orleans. They are an older style, yet they’re highly stylized and are always interesting to look at.
- Each letter (and therefore each page) refers to a true cultural heritage item. There are no dull letters in this book.
- I love the symbolism present in the colors used in the book. Each and every picture only contains three colors: red, white, and blue. Or, in the words of Jean Luc Picard, “more properly used the same colors in the order blue, white, and red.”
- While the book is crafted as a toddler or children’s alphabet book, it’s clear to me that this could be set on any adult coffee table and would cause a lot of great conversation.
- The pages rhyme in pairs. This had to be incredibly difficult to achieve.
Now, on top of all of the creativity, stylistic choices, and cultural relevance, there’s a true opportunity to teach your toddler the ABCs. When you consider the power of an ABC book like this when it is combined with another (ABC book), you can encourage learning at an advanced pace. Here’s what I mean.
We all know that repetition helps a toddler (and while we’re at it…adults too) to retain information, but it’s not simply repetition that your child will benefit from. See, because there are such stark differences between this book and other ABC books, your child will make the connection that the point of the books are the letters: A is for Apple, but it’s also for Alleyways. Essentially, because the letters are taught in such diverse ways with such different objects, toddlers have no choice but to absorb the commonality.
Our author, Christine Gunter, has a very diverse background that I think has contributed to the very unique and interesting style of the book. While Christine was born in the state of New York, she’s spent a good portion of her life travelling in what she calls “The Beast”. The Beast is a giant motorhome that allow Christine and her husband Jack to travel about the continental United States, absorbing each city’s unique culture. Through all this travelling, Christine has chosen to identify her home as New Orleans.
What’s also interested me about Christine is the importance she places on family. She has a very large family, with seven children and plenty of grandchildren. She’s also very committed to helping out her family, and does so as often as she can. What’s more, Christine places a great deal of emphasis on her family’s extensive artistic traits. As such, she tells me that she pulls great inspiration from them and what they’ve accomplished.
All of this (about our author) simply says that she’s a down-to-earth individual that has wholesome values. I know that as a parent, I want to read stories that come from a solid foundation, and so that’s why I tell you this story about Christine.
In the end, this is a great educational book that will teach toddlers their ABCs. On top of that, it’ll teach both you and your little one a lot about New Orleans and its culture. It is certainly the most unique alphabet book that we’ve ever reviewed here on Toddler Book Reviews. I’m certain that it’s a perfect compliment for parents that need a little help teaching their little ones the alphabet. It’s not like it’s expensive either, as you can pick up the book on Amazon for $4.97 USD (Kindle) or $8.99 USD (Paperback). Head over there now, and get this cute little educational book for you and your little one to enjoy.
Thanks for reading…to your toddlers,