Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dotty about the Spotty? Lots of Dots by Craig Frazier




And some books, like Craig Frazier's Lots of Dots, (Chronicle Books, 2010) are way more than they seem at first glance.

Sure, it sports an eye-catching cover, with an amorphously-shaped, clown-like figure apparently juggling colorful balls, and inside its bright, primary colored illustrations are innately appealing and its spare text, one line per page, turns out to form pleasantly rhythmic quatrains.

But break out all this content and you have a book of wide appeal and many uses. The "dots" are actually circles, which in the author-illustrator's imagination can be many things: drums (big), dots on a ladybug's carapace (small), soap bubbles (floating), and apples (falling), so that this book becomes a useful shapes concept book throughout. These dots can be scoops of ice cream for licking or balls for kicking, a sun shining or wheels for skateboard fun. After one run-through of this book, toddlers will be able to point out the dots on each page and older kids will want to spot "dots" everywhere, indoors and out, just as the book promises. (How many circles can we spot while we walk down this block?) Frazier helpfully finishes up the book with a double-page spread of just such "dotty" shapes from everywhere to spark your own I-spy game.

But, wait! There's MORE! The human figure assumes a different color on each page, making each page an opportunity for teaching color concepts to youngsters. (Name all the colors on this page!) Older kids, having heard the first quatrain, should be eager to guess what the second set of rhyming "dots" are going to be. (Can we make up a brand-new four-line rhyme about circular things for ourselves? It's easier than you think...)

Some dots are soft (marshmallows).
Some dots are hard (dinner plates).
Some dots are inside (sofa pillows).
Some are in the yard (soccer balls).

You don't have to be poet laureate to dash off a few among yourselves, and that's always a good time to talk about rhyming words; after all, if you figure out one, just change the beginning letter and you can read them all. Hey, you're teaching reading here!

Thinking skills? How many "dotty" things to eat can we name? Cheerios, marshmallows, carrot pennies, gumballs? What "dotty" things do we wear? Buttons? Rings on our fingers? Holes for our shoelaces? Bracelets? Ponytail holders? How about artwork? How about a collage of "dotty" things cut from old magazines? What "dotty" things can we make from play clay? Snowmen, anyone, with little "dots" for facial features and buttons down his front? There are lots of possibilities with this clever little book at your fingertips.

As a bonus, Frazier's text is easy enough for lapsitting tots to follow with cues from the adult reader, but basic enough for beginning readers (thanks to the rhyming words) to breeze through on their own.

In other words, Lots of Dots, is a multitasking book, one that can earn its keep on a child's or classroom's bookshelf for a variety of uses. Pair this one with Lindsay George's recent essay on all things round, Maggie's Ball, reviewed here. Going "dotty" can be lots of fun!

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