cover image Prairie Primer: A to Z

Prairie Primer: A to Z

Caroline Stutson. Dutton Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-525-45163-1

Stutson (By the Light of the Halloween Moon) and Lamb (My Great-Aunt Arizona) put the alphabet through its paces as they apply a rose-colored lens to the rural Midwest at the turn of the century. Some letters recall items specific to the period (""Irons"" heated on a stove; a spinning ""Teetotum"" toy; a ""Velocipede""); other key words represent familiar objects in bygone contexts (""Umbrellas"" provide cover from sunshine; ""Eggs"" are collected from the family's hen). Other entries, however, are relegated to obvious, ho-hum generalities belonging to no time or place in particular (""Alphabet""; ""House""; ""another Year""). Rhyming couplets link the scenes, also depicting a beatific way of life that makes the Little House books seem angst-ridden by comparison. Lamb's joyful, nostalgic illustrations, sweetly lit, exhibit a sartorial sensibility that will have special appeal for the paper-doll set. However, from the uninspiring text to the overrefined illustrations, this prairie primer lies somewhere between prairie prosaic and prairie precious. Ages 3-7. (Oct.)