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Two Years, No Rain

Two Years, No Rain - Shawn Klomparens How do you screw up such an easy premise? It's a kids' alphabet book based on Australian animals!The trouble starts early: they give the letter "A" to Antechinus, an insect-eating little mouse. Do you think my six year old nephew gives a fuck about Antechini? No way! Australia has some very cool Ants, including this green-bellied variety, which Aboriginees eat for their nutritional value (high in vitamin C), and their (alleged) fruity/citrusy taste! What kid wouldn't rather hear about that?? Here's a pic of two green-bellied ants about to get it on: This prompted me to do a quick sanity check: I flipped directly to "K". Any Australian animal alphabet book needs to have "K" go to kangaroo. Kids love kangaroos in general; narrow the book's subject to exclusively Australian animals, and there should be no contest. What did I find? They gave "K" to Koala! I have nothing against Koala, but no rational human being would rank Koalas over Kangaroos in a childrens' book. This is a big red flag warning readers that the authors are not to be trusted. Reading on, I found that many of the poems are filled with insults and backhanded complements about the animals they are describing. Consider the poor Zebra Finch:He feeds on seeds and moves in a flock,He is pretty, but his song is not!His untidy nest is made of sticksBut of all our finches, he's the pick.Zebra finches evolved over millions of years to successfully survive in the harsh conditions of the Outback, but Jessian Burnett and Barbara Carstairs don't feel their nests are as tidy as they should be! Sorry, neatfreaks, take your anti-finch hate speech somewhere else!Here's another one: QuokkaHe's a sort of little wallabyBut looks like a great, big rat.He likes to live on islands,People feed him, so he's fat.His whole existance is distilled down to four lines, and we still can't keep from ribbing him about his weight? Doesn't he have any finer points we might concentrate on? Maybe he compensates for his looks by being really funny.Aside from the put-downs, some of these poems are just structurally unsound. Consider the rhyme scheme of the Platypus poem:With my duck bill and webbed feetI should be covered in feathers thick.Instead, I have a coat of furSo as animals go, I'm very rare.Ugh. Where's the editor?Moving on, a lot of the letters go to animals which don't actually start with the letter in question. For example, "F" goes to Fairy Penguin... that's a Penguin. P. The "Fairy" is a modifier. "F" should have gone to Finch. Likewise, "H" went to Honey Possum. That's a possum. "P". Actually, isn't the real word Opossum?!?? You don't give abbreviated names in an alphabet book! Who gave this draft the green light?! Anyhow, "H" should have gone to Honeyeater.The real test of an alphabet book is how it handles X. X-rays and Xylophones are so cliche. This book went with eXtinct. I can respect that. Granted, "extinct" begins with "E", but this is a desperate situation, so I can appreciate the authors' out-of-the-box thinking and initiative here. I also appreciate their good sense to feature a Cockatoo for "C".I'm going with two stars on this one. If you're in a pinch and can't find a better Australian animal-based alphabet book, I guess this one will do. I think a lot of the choices in this book represent some highly questionable judgment, but overall it probably won't scar your children for life.