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March 14, 2012

New Books: Up, Tall and High

Didactic books for beginning readers...well, just look at the phrase. Sounds like the kiss of death already, no? Yet in the right hands, books that teach basic linguistic concepts—like author-illustrator Ethan Long's Up, Tall and High—can be both irresistibly charming and remarkably effective.

In this book, a cast of three Mo Willems–esque birds demonstrate the practical meaning of the three somewhat related words in the title. Each lesson is very short and very simple, yet manages to get across surprising levels of complexity (the relativity of the word tall, for example). And each ends with a little punch line, revealed by opening a flap.

It's the kind of book our three-year-old keeps coming back to; the whimsical characters delight him. And while I don't plan to test the depth of his knowledge of the book's three keywords, the way he studies each little story have me convinced that the mini lessons are penetrating. Not that it matters, to be honest—his pure delight in reading the book is plenty.

[Cover image courtesy of Penguin USA]

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