The test of a good story is in how much good stuff you can leave out.
Winters, Kari-Lynn. (2009/2010 [printed fall 2009; distributed 2010]). Illustrated by Ben Frey. Runaway Alphabet. Vancouver: Simply Read Books. 32 pages. Ages 4-9. IBSN: 9781897476338. OCLC number 440091101.
Join Nan and Pa as they discover the sights and especially the sounds of the winter carnival in this phonetic alphabet book.
As a special bonus, this book includes an audio CD of professional voice-actors and a musician performing the story. Cast:
Nan: Charlotte C.
Various: Lee Fodi
Narrator: Lori Sherritt-Fleming
Music: Maryse Schembri
Audio sample (in m4a format for iPods or iTunes):
Introduction to book, by Marilyn Chapman
Research shows that reading to and with children, and playing with the sounds of language, foster children’s growth in language and literacy. Alphabet books incorporate both of these activities and can play an important role in young children’s literacy development. Traditional alphabet books typically focus on words that begin with particular letters, such as “a for apple and alligator.” Sometimes alphabet books are themed, such as an animal alphabet or a west-coast alphabet. Other alphabet books use the letters of the alphabet in alliteration, such as “Amazing aardvarks always admire armadillos.”
Kari-Lynn Winters and Ben Frey have created a unique alphabet book. Runaway Alphabet differs from traditional alphabet books in two ways: ﬁrst, the sounds commonly associated with letters represent sounds made by people or objects, such as “d-d-ddd-d” for the sound of drums and “g-g-g-g” for the sound Pa makes when gulping down his coffee; second, these letter-sound relationships are interwoven within a story.
We invite you to read and enjoy Runaway Alphabet with your children and, after shared reading or hearing the enclosed CD several times, encourage them to chime in, and then, when ready, to try reading on their own. In this way, Runaway Alphabet can be a stepping-stone on the path to literacy.
Professor, Language and Literacy Education
Director, Institute for Early Childhood Education and Research
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC
Runaway Alphabet is included in Children’s Writers and Illustrators of BC Olympics books.
Review by Jessica Kluthe in CM Magazine, 18:18, January 13, 2012 (University of Manitoba)
3 1/2 stars out of 4.
Kari-Lynn Winters’ wintery adventure story of little blonde Nan and her Pa, filled with “c-c-cold” shivers and “wwwwww whistles [of] wind,” is heartwarming.
This alphabet book incorporates letter-sounds. The sounds are made by people like Pa while he “g-g-g-g… gulps down his coffee,” and by objects like the “xxxx [of] Pa’s boots [scraping] the icy snow.” As the text for the sounds is larger than the rest of the text, young readers are encouraged to participate and can easily identify the sounds on each page. Because the sounds are familiar ones, such as the “zzz zzz zzz” of a snore or the “b-b-b” or a bumpy bus ride, Runaway Alphabet could invite even reluctant, or very young readers, to join in.
Ben Frey’s detailed and colourful illustrations of various winter scenes, from a hockey game on a frozen blue pond to a toboggan ride on a stark white sheet of snow, are full of atmosphere. Since the story takes place over a winter evening, the images are dark and captivating. The details from the tiny pictures on Pa’s map, to the snow-suited people sitting in the chairlifts above Nan and Pa, provide young readers with a lot to look at.
Runaway Alphabet is a unique alphabet book and would be a perfect read while tucked into a warm bed on a chilly winter night.
Jessica Kluthe has an MFA in Writing from the University of Victoria. Her forthcoming book, Rosina Vecchia: A Matrilineal Memoir, will be published by Brindle & Glass in 2013.
Review by Ken Kilback in Canadian Children’s Booknews, 34:4, Fall 2011
Nan and Pa are spending the day at the winter carnival. From listening to and following the parade of drummers, to playing ice hockey with bigger players, to sliding down the snowy mountain on an inner tube, Nan is ready to make the most of every opportunity that presents itself. Though Nan is never out of sight, Pa has a hard time keeping up with her, always finding himself one or two steps behind his adventurous daughter. When Pa finally does catch up to her, he and Nan enjoy a fun toboggan ride together. On the bus ride home, while Pa is happily snoozing away after an exhausting day, Nan is already thinking about her next adventure.
The language is simple and spare, the narrative carried along by Nan’s boundless energy and Pa’s constant clumsiness; in addition, Frey’s illustrations are wintry warm and whimsical, nicely contrasting Nan’s self-assurance with Pa’s anxiousness. However, this is also an alphabet book, its uniqueness found in the fact that woven through the fabric of the story are the sounds usually associated with each of the letters, rather than the name of the letters, these sounds being appropriately made by objects or used by people in the right way at the right time. The inclusion and use of the sounds does not interrupt the flow of the story, but rather adds to the story in a fun and engaging way.
A CD accompanies the book, with professional actors narrating the story and voicing the characters and sounds. An original score was written for the dramatization, as was a bouncy tune entitled “Let’s All Go To The Carnival.” Children will have lots of fun with this book.
Ken Kilback is a writer and Kindergarten teacher in Vancouver.
“Writing for Children: Runaway Alphabet Review,” by Lily Erlic, September 11, 2011
Runaway Alphabet is a picture book written by Kari-Lynn Winters and illustrated by Ben Frey. It’s a delightful book to read to your children or grandchildren. I enjoyed reading it and hope you do too! Here’s an excerpt:
The book has an introduction written by Marilyn Chapman, PhD who says that the book promotes ‘young children’s literacy development’.
The letters of the alphabet are presented in a fun way. Here’s another excerpt:
“Writing Craft: What is a Concept Book, Anyway?” by Ishta Mercurio, April 11, 2011
It’s the first of our writing craft posts, guys! Woo-hoo! I’ll be doing these on Mondays, and will switch between Picture Books and novels randomly as the mood strikes me.
Okay, let’s talk about picture books. There is more than one kind of picture book out there, and I’m not talking about board books, although those are out there and a lot of board books would work equally well as picture books and vice-versa. (More about this in an upcoming post.) I’m talking about concept books versus all the rest of the picture books out there. A concept book is one that is written with the goal of delivering a piece of information, like the alphabet, or counting from one to ten, or the names of a bunch of different animals, or opposites, or something like that…
…Sometimes the storyline even makes up the majority of the book, as in Kari-Lynn Winters’ Runaway Alphabet, in which the sounds of each letter of the alphabet are delivered through the telling about a girl’s day at the winter carnival. Here, even though it’s clear that the point of the book is to deliver the sounds of the alphabet, you could do away with most of them and still have an engaging story.
Either way, while it’s possible to have a concept book that does no more than list the items on the dining table or take us through our one-two-threes, you’ll have a much stronger book if you manage to weave the concept into a story with a solid plot. Whether the framework you choose is that of a typical day (from waking to bedtime), an experience like the carnival, or even a night of dreams, having that framework will give you more angles from which to pitch your book, and will give readers more angles from which they can enjoy and appreciate it.
Partial clip of Kari presenting Runaway Alphabet.
See also Naturally Educational’s “S is for Snow” craft/literacy activity at www.naturallyeducational.com/2011/01/letter-s-activity-snow.
Book signing clip
Brief clip of Kari signing this book at the Brock Days Alumni Weekend, September 2011.
Kari is available to visit schools, libraries, birthday parties, workshops … Please see more about author visits.