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Letter Buddies Letter Books Review by Donna Campos

Cavallo Publishing
11585 Sorrento Valley Road, Suite 108
San Diego, CA 92121

The Letter Buddies Letter Books present all 26 letters of the alphabet in 23 books with glossy cardstock soft covers. (The letters Q and U are combined, as are X, Y, and Z.) Conveniently sized at 5" x 6", the books are designed to help younger children with letter recognition and formation and increase their phonemic awareness and vocabulary. The front cover of each book includes the capital and lowercase letters in rough, textured format, allowing for tactile tracing activities. Letters and words throughout the books are printed in large, black print, with adequate spacing between letters. One simple activity is included at the end of each book, and additional activity ideas are available at in the "For Teachers" tab. A few printable activities are available free, and others are available for purchase through the site, as are coordinating support materials. Be aware that Cavallo Publishing offers a completely different book set titled Letter Buddies Alphabet Books, and you will not want to confuse the two.

A cartoon character introduces the letter at the start of every book. Your child will enjoy meeting "Active A," "Furry F," "Icy I," "Powerful P," and "Vain V." Following the introduction of the cartoon character, there are six words that start with that particular letter. The words are presented in big, black print, and they are illustrated with actual photographs, usually on a white background. The activity at the end presents all six items that were shown in the book with the addition of one more, and the child must choose the item that does not belong. Designed for use in any learning environment, both inside and outside of school situations, Letter Buddies Letter Books provide sensory input through the textured letters on the cover of each book as well as a total of 138 vocabulary words.

As a mother and former child care provider who took the time to cut letters from fine sand paper years ago when planning sensory activities for children in my care, I am thrilled to find Letter Buddies Letter Books. And the simple, realistic photos are so much better than drawn representations shown on busy backgrounds. My son functions on the autism spectrum. Purchasing photo-quality flashcards for item recognition would quickly become expensive, but this little set of 23 books offers an excellent alternative. The clearly printed words and simple white background are important factors for children who are easily distracted or overwhelmed by extraneous information. Also, there is a good mix of simple words and more complex words. You will find "ant" and "apple," but you will also find "ambulance" and "astronaut." This makes the books useful for a broader age range. All three of my boys really enjoyed these books: my nine-year-old worked on increasing his vocabulary, my three-year-old worked on his pronunciation, and my one-year-old babbled along with both of his brothers as he enjoyed the wonderfully clear pictures and some fantastic moments with his siblings.

The cardstock covers are fairly durable, but extra care will be necessary if you hope to pass the books down to siblings, as we do. I was a bit disappointed that the combination books presented so few words for each letter. (The Q and U combination book has three "qu" words and three "u" words. The X, Y, and Z book includes only one word for "x," three words for "y," and two words for "z.") But we all know how difficult it is to find words for those particular letters, and at least the uppercase and lowercase letters are still provided for each letter. Also, I understand the idea of a repetitive activity at the end of every book, but some variety would have been nice. I also wish the books had been a bit longer. Ten words would have made our children very happy without overwhelming them. Otherwise, we are thrilled and couldn't complain. Letter Buddies Letter Books are an excellent addition to the teaching arsenal, particularly for special needs students. I wholeheartedly recommend them.

Product review by: Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2008