Racecar Alphabet Hardcover – Nov 1 2003
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From School Library Journal
PreSchool-Grade 2-The alliterative, rhyming text features each letter of the alphabet in sequence and is accompanied by attractive watercolors of racing scenes. Each page's text focuses on some aspect of the sport and an often-repeated letter (e.g., "Helmets holding heads"). While clever, the writing is occasionally stilted due to the requirements of the setup. Realistic, double-page paintings depict a variety of authentic racers, including Formula 1, Indy/CART, sports cars, and stock cars, which progress chronologically, with early models at the start and modern ones following. Almost all the drivers and officials are white men, but spectators are a diverse crowd and the doctor treating an injury is a woman. Endpapers illustrate each of the machines depicted and identify them by year, make, and model. Similar in concept to Anne Miranda's Vroom, Chugga, Vroom-Vroom (Turtle, 1998), Floca's book is more appealing due to its superior illustrations and their faithfulness to real racecars.
Jeffrey A. French, Euclid Public Library, OH
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
PreS-Gr. 2. Floca's picture-book tribute to auto racing looks simple, but many things are going on at once. There is, of course, a race. Also, the alphabetical text often uses alliterative phrases, providing functional fare for phonetics fanatics and fun for everyone else. And finally, each turn of the page represents a time shift. Although a single race appears to proceed throughout the book, the cars, drivers, tracks, and spectators change considerably from the book's opening in 1901, when a Ford chugs along a country road, to the conclusion in 2001, when a Ferrari takes its victory lap around an immense racetrack. Large in scale, the ink-and-watercolor artwork is bold enough to share with a story hour or classroom group, yet young racing fans will find the details absorbing. Floca's introductory note on the history of racing may interest them as well. The clean, spacious book design is thoughtfully planned, right down to the end papers, which show different views of the cars and drivers. An appealing picture book on an unusual subject. Carolyn Phelan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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The book's endpapers consist of eighteen racecars dating between a 1901 Ford 999 to a souped up 2001 Ferrari F1-2001. On the front endpapers, the cars face towards the reader. On the back endpapers they face away. The fact that Floca took the time to make a change that most people won't even notice is a great way of understanding this book. Floca is, if nothing else, meticulous. After a quick note on, "One Hundred Years of Racecars" we reach the title page and an image of a man driving a very clunky, mighty dirty car down a dirt road. The first double page spread reads, "Automobiles - machines on wheels". And we're off! Each letter begins a sentence that describes the racecar attitude right from the start. Sometimes these sentences are alliterative jolts of energy like, "Flat feared and fought, the driver's foe". Sometimes (as in the case of an injured driver) they're a single word. "Yelp!". By the end of the book we have witnessed a variety of different cars over the years and an increasingly complex sport.
My husband just looked over my shoulder as I was writing this review and felt it necessary to point out that it is really difficult to draw cars. Now imagine drawing a shockingly wide variety of them. You have to be able to distinguish a car that was clearly popular in 1976 to its hoity-toity 1992 equivalent. So well done there, Mr. Floca. My husband also points out that the book completely skips over the period of history where moonshiners started racing their cars in the Southern hills. No such tribute to these racing pioneers appears in this book. You may be relieved or outraged as you see fit.
In my experience, "The Racecar Alphabet" is hampered only by the word "Alphabet" in its title. Intelligent preschoolers who're into automobiles will pass on this book because they think the alphabet is too babyish for them. I often want to explain to them that the alphabet aspect of this publication is hardly the focus. You wouldn't even necessarily know it was there unless someone pointed it out to you! My pleas fall on deaf ears, though, and I wish that Floca had been a little less original in his formatting. An odd wish.
Brian Floca is, at this point in history, probably best known for the illustrations he's done for Avi's mighty popular (and well-written) "Poppy" series. For kids that are just a bit too young for Avi's mouse tales, however, "The Racecar Alphabet" will serve as an excellent introduction to Floca's work. Technically adept, informative, and a lot of fun, this is one car title that deserves to be on any racing fan's shelf. A great beginning for the burgeoning NASCAR fan (and a good book to boot).
However, it is nothing of the sort. While not a rhyming book its clever mix of consonance, assonance, onomatopoeia and surely other literary devices that elude me, make it seem almost poetic.
Leaving the high-brow behind, this book has numerous strengths -- it has an above average size which makes for big, dramatic illustrations; it has a fantastic read-aloud quality due to its profoundly thoughtful word choice; it has a lot of subtle things going on with the evolution of the racecar, etc; finally, it is just plain fun. If it didn't have alphabet in the title you might not even notice the whole alphabet thing going on -- it definitely doesn't try to be an educational book or to force feed kids learning.
I couldn't recommend it more highly for children no matter how young.
Each letter's phrases are as alliterative as possible; some work better than others.
I recommend this as a cute book that fathers can read to their children in order to start them on the road to becoming the Formula One World Champion!
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