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Work: An Occupational ABC by K. Hatanaka



Hatanaka, Kellen. Work: An Occupational ABC. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2014. Print.

At first glance, you may look at this book and think it just like the myriad of other ABC books for young children and preschoolers, but you would be delightfully wrong!  Yes, of course, each letter from A to Z is represented and indeed each letter is accompanied by an image that characterizes the letter.  But that is where the similarities end. 

Toronto-based designer, illustrator and artist Kellen Hatanaka, who can now also call himself a first time author, has created a beautiful and unexpected piece of art for the youngest readers and it is as much a delight to read as it is to behold.  With creamy paper and softly-coloured images, created digitally after first creating ‘hand-drawn patterns and images’, it is reminiscent of a small person’s version of a coffee table book, if said coffee table were in a nursery.

It starts out simple enough, with A for Aviator and a full page spread with a boldly-coloured A as well as mountain tops that echo the A’s shape.  The next page, however, alerts the reader to the fun in store – B is for Butcher, shown chasing after a group of raccoons who have absconded with a string of sausages. Yes, there are occupations like Grocer and Tailor but there are also the Ice Cream Vendor, K-9 Officer and the Wedding Singer! What’s wonderful to note are the many alternative occupations, some that you may have not have heard of, and that there is a nice mix of women, men, and cultures taking part. For the curious reader, there is a section of funny ‘Want Ads’ which provides a short description of the occupation.

This would make a wonderful new baby gift and is an excellent addition to a home or public library.

Highly recommended: 4 stars out of 4
Reviewer: Debbie Feisst

Debbie is a Public Services Librarian at the H.T. Coutts Education Library at the University of Alberta.  When not renovating, she enjoys travel, fitness and young adult fiction.