4 out of 4 stars
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In the children’s book If Zebras Ziplined, author Mary Barry pairs the phonetic sounds of the alphabet with a multitude of active animal personalities. Apron-wearing alligators, cocoa-sipping camels, basketball-dribbling dinosaurs, and hula-hooping hippos will have kids giggling as they follow along, and illustrator Steve Wallace contributes some imaginatively lively depictions with hidden clues. As readers visually see a wide range of creatures go about their activities of daily living, they also encounter playfully poetic descriptions that firmly associate various animal species with their audible quirks.
Each letter of the alphabet is printed in block form, cursive script, uppercase font, and lowercase font, so a complete educational framework is present. Some pages even show a 5-cent coin, a 25-cent coin, and a two-handed clock, so extra learning opportunities have been creatively embedded within the storyline, especially for avid bibliophiles with a discerning eye. I see this as being a beneficial attribute for advancing readers as they grow older and progress academically.
All of the character names exhibit paired alliterations, so Elephant Ethan, Iguana Ike, Jellyfish Jean, Ollie Oat, and Savannah Swan become magnetically memorable monikers. There are also a few instances of interactive dialogue, such as the statement about a flat bicycle tire that asks readers, “Do you know what that’s like?” There are also questions asking readers about their favorite drinks and future birthday wishes, amidst a whimsical appearance of ladybugs, chocolate milk, drones, and unicorns.
A zebra character with a magnifying glass encourages kids to visually search for things on each page that start with the featured letter, so developing minds stay actively engaged with an additional level of prompted learning. A thorough, two-page answer key handily appears at the end of the book, so readers are readily equipped with a tool that allows them to easily double-check their work.
While there is one page depicting vampire bees and zombie trees, none of the illustrations are overly scary or frightening. I feel this book would be most appropriate for children between the ages of three and eight, but younger minds might enjoy having this one read aloud. The author effectively uses auditory repetition to help reinforce individual sounds, so I would recommend this book to any classroom or household that might be in search of an entertaining form of illustrative education for beginner readers. I did encounter a small handful of grammatical and typographical errors while reading, but they did not affect my overall enjoyment of the book, and there were no other aspects of the publication that I notably disliked.
I gladly award this picture book a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. Kids who love a combined presence of adorable animals, phonetic sounds, and can-you-find-it prompts will adore this one. If Zebras Ziplined will have them confidently navigating their way through the entire alphabet! This 60-page book is also the debut title in the A To Zebra series.
If Zebras Ziplined
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