cover image A is for Asia

A is for Asia

Cynthia Chin-Lee. Scholastic, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-531-30011-4

""A is for Asia, one-third of the earth,"" begins this fact-filled, fun alphabet book, which introduces readers to the vast and varied cultures of that continent-Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan, Indian, Mongolian and more. Author and illustrator cover a lot of ground in portraying Asian peoples' day-to-day lives as well as the special occasions and arts that are unique to a particular country. Readers will delight in Heo's (The Green Frogs) paintings, jam-packed with quirky depictions of smiling children, animals, dancers, bowls of food, boats, kites, etc. Known for breaking with formal composition and color combinations, Heo also pays homage to traditional Asian artistic styles (lettering, one-dimensional picture planes). The predominance of yellow and gold tones gives the whole book a sunny, energetic feel. Together with Chin-Lee's graceful language and descriptions, Heo's illustrations make turning every page an adventure into contemporary and historical Asia. Each alphabet item is shown in context, helping to make unusual details and activities accessible for children. Information about different religious observances gives the book added value in the classroom. Key words are also spelled out in one of Asia's many languages, and a brief note on Asian languages is included. Ages 5-10. (Mar.)