Monday, December 28, 2009

Nonfiction Monday: K is for Kabuki, by Gloria Whelan and Jenny Nolan, reviewed by Freaky

We love Sleeping Bear's alphabet series here at the library, and it's just an added bonus that this one is written by one of our favorite authors:

If you are not familiar with these books, they encompass everything from states and countries to animals, the military, mothers, and sports. Usually each letter gets a two-page spread, taken up mostly by illustrations, then with one short paragraph of text (often rhyming) that you would read as part of the natural flow of the book, and additional background/history on the sides. The variety of authors and illustrators keeps this basic format from getting stale.

I enjoyed the text in this particular edition, particularly the combination of "old" Japan (emperors and origami), things we Westerners think are new (manga), and the fairly modern (bullet trains and hybrid cars). I was a little disappointed in the illustrations, by Oki Han. I liked her work on the Basho books, but these seemed somehow unfinished. The colors are gorgeous, but the faces in particular are nowhere near what we have come to expect from her. The manga page confused me, too: there is familiar manga in the background, but I couldn't tell if the characters standing around were supposed to be manga (in which the faces were all wrong), or just kids dressed in manga inspired costumes.

Overall, though, a good addition to a great series. These are very popular with kids researching states, for example, because they get a good variety of information in small, entertaining chunks. We also have several adults who make it a point to pick these up whenever they spot them on our new book shelves. I recommend school and public libraries at least purchase the geographically themed ones, and look forward to seeing what subjects will be tackled next!


  1. Yup yup! Also a fan of Sleeping Bear Press and I thought K is for Kabuki was yet another winner from this particular publisher.

  2. I like the way that these books allow kids to delve into a topic as little or as much as they wish to. I've used them in the classroom, and they can serve to simply introduce kids to a subject, or they can provide a lot of detailed research info for projects. I'm a fan! I just used A is for Algonquin with my Grade 4s this year.