Sunday, July 17, 2016

Review: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie by Sara Gillingham

by Sara Gillingham
Phaidon Press
Children Non-Fiction
ages 6 - 8
120 pages

A graphically stunning, first-ever volume of nautical codes for children

This stunning visual reference is an introduction to maritime communication through nautical flags, along with morse code, the phonetic alphabet, and semaphore signaling.

Today's system of international maritime signal flags was developed in the 19th century, and is still used for communication between ships, or between ship and shore. Each flag, boldly colored for visual distinction at sea, stands for a letter as well as a phrase relevant to seafaring. The resulting code is both beautiful and functional, inviting readers to code and decode messages of their own!


The exceptional quality of this book becomes clear the moment it touches the fingers. Chucked full of nautical codes from Alpha to Zulu, this book not only satisfies the appetite of curious children but invites to discover a new, fantastical world on their own high seas.

A several page introduction explains the concept of signal flags, Morse code, semaphore and how all of these apply to communication out at sea. The descriptions not only ease young readers into this nautical world, but do it in a fashion which is clear and easy to understand. There's no fear of boredom in this book, but rather it does a great job at luring kids into an interesting type of communication.

Following the introduction, each flag is presented alphabetically--the name of the flag, and it's meaning are explained on the left page, while a page size image of the flag is presented on the right. This keeps out all possibilities for confusion as to which flag might be meant, and helps the reader to concentrate on that specific one. Upon flipping the flag, the phonetic pronunciation of the code is presented, the morse code for the first letter, a quick example of a type of boat which might be involved with this type of code is shown, and the semaphore form for the first letter is presented by a cute, sailor figure with two flags.

The author does a fantastic job delivering this 'secret' code in such a way that kids will be eager to imitate and use themselves. . .a perfect way for them to communicate without anyone else catching on (ex. Morse code in class). The flag pages add an extra delight not only through their size, but also through the special finish on the paper which gives them a bit of a flag feel. As an added bonus, the last pages include a semaphore alphabet, the entire morse code and even more goodies. Of course, the entire thing is accompanied with colorful illustrations, guaranteeing a playful and light presentation the whole way through.

Summed up, this is a book curious kids will devour. Not only does it give them insight into the forms of communications used on ships but is something they can use on their own and communicate with friends in their own 'secret' way. I can highly recommend this to kids ages six and up.

And here she is. . .

Sara Gillingham is an award-winning art director and designer. She was the design director for Children’s Publishing at Chronicle Books and taught at UC Berkeley and California College of Arts. In addition, she has written and/or illustrated several books for young children. She lives with her family in British Columbia, Canada.

No comments: