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R is for Rocket: An ABC Book by Tad Hills

R is for Rocket: An ABC Book
Written and illustrated by Tad Hills
(Schwartz & Wade Books; $17.99, Ages 3-7)

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A is for alphabet book!

Alphabet books are so important in fostering early literacy by teaching children to recognize letter shapes and their associated sounds, often in very creative ways. In addition, alphabet books, like R is for Rocket: An ABC Book, also help children build vocabulary recognition. We could have children chant “B is for boy,” but I bet they’d enjoy this more:

Bella balances on a ball while
a big blue butterfly watches.

The repetition of a single letter also creates a mood and a rhythmic effect, and, in longer sentences, encourages children to use words to expand beyond “C is for cat” and create sentences that contain multiple alliterative words. These in turn could be used to describe an activity or event:

Owl offers a cookie and a crayon to crow.
“Now will you stop cawing?” she asks.

What might children’s responses be if asked why was the crow cawing? How did this story begin or end? Can they think of other hard “C” words that could be used to tell their story? What a great precursor to creative storytelling/writing.

Tad Hills, the author and illustrator of numerous books, including the Duck and Goose books, depicts his well-known Rocket characters “ …having fun while learning the alphabet.” Unlike basic alphabet books, Hill’s popular Rocket characters are engaged in activities beginning with that letter, and accompanied by a short, alliterative sentence or two:

Rocket paints a picture of a peacock. Owl prefers her pumpkin.

My first and second grade students, already fans of Hills’ earlier titles, squealed with pleasure when I showed them the cover of this book. The students quickly caught on to the alliteration and soon the reading became dynamic and interactive as students discussed which sound they heard and how many times it occurred in each sentence.

While my students enjoyed Hills’ brightly colored and adorable characters, my favorite illustration is a two-page spread uniting letters E and F:

In the evening, Emma finds an egg.

Fred frolics with fireflies

Hills depicts a pleasantly darkening sky, dotted with “starry” fireflies. In the shadowy grass, Emma finds a delicate blue egg while Fred chases after glowing fireflies. This reminded me of a lovely summer’s night.

An extra bonus is that the book jacket doubles as an alphabet poster.

Highly recommended for schools and libraries where this author/illustrator is popular and where alphabet books play an important part in early literacy. Visit Tad Hills to learn more about his books.

  • Reviewed by Dornel Cerro
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