Susannah McFarlane (author)
Lachlan Creagh (illustrator)
Scholastic, Australia: August 2011
Genre: picture book
Issues: friendship, values
Katie is 'the kindest koala in the whole kindergarten and in all the Kimberley'. She helps her friends with their hobbies and encourages them when they need support.
This is an alphabet series with a difference, using considerably more sophisticated vocabulary than such books generally do. 'Katie and Kayla knit knickerbockers for the karaoke competition,' for example. Or 'Katie kept calm and carried on. She took knives, knots and other knick-knacks out of her khaki kitbag and got cracking.' What is particularly noticeable in this book in the series is the way McFarlane deliberately uses 'kn' (silent k) words as well as those that produce the usual 'hard' sound. By combining the two, as well as including 'c' words that make the hard 'k' sound, McFarlane provides carers and educators with a story that encourages the exploration of the different phonetic values of letters and letter combinations as used in English. This is excellent for teaching both spelling strategies and word families.
The best part for children, however, is the wonderful rhythmic alliteration that makes repetition of the sentences so much fun. While not quite as much of a tongue-twister as 'Betty made a bitter batter' which resulted in 'using butter to make her bitter batter better', the sentences in Kind Katie will have children keen to say them out loud in order to enjoy the repetition of sounds. This style of language immersion is ideal for encouraging early word recognition and reading as well as facilitating general language development.
Aside from a text skilfully crafted by a writer who loves playing with language, Lachlan Creagh's illustrations in Kind Katie provide outstanding stimulation for visual spatial readers. The pictures take the observant reader well beyond the story, adding depth and complexity to an already enjoyable narrative. Look carefully at the knickerbockers that Katie and Kayla are knitting, for example: the knitting style is... interesting... and there are some very nervous sheep watching what is being done to their fleeces!
Great fun and valuable on many levels, Kind Katie is one of the best in the Little Mates series.
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