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D Is for Dala Horse: A Nordic Countries Alphabet Review by Melissa Theberge

Kathy-jo Wargin
Sleeping Bear Press
315 E. Eisenhower Parkway, Ste. 200
Ann Arbor, MI 48108
800-877-4253
http://www.sleepingbearpress.com/

Looking for a truly engaging fact-filled book to accompany geography studies? Sleeping Bear Press has the answer in D Is for Dala Horse, one in a series of "Discover the World" books. Our children have long enjoyed the alphabet-style books that Sleeping Bear Press is known for, and this book about several Nordic countries does not disappoint. It is one of about 13 books designed to teach about nations of the world.

D Is for Dala Horse takes the reader on a tour of Nordic nations, using the alphabet to introduce fun and memorable topics. Pages include "A" is for Arctic Circle, "E" is for Everyman's Right (a unique approach to use of public & private lands for all), "H" is for Hans Christian Andersen, "L" is for Lingonberries and Lutefisk, "R" is for Runestones, Reindeer, and Rosemaling, and "V" is for Vikings. There is a wide variety of topics, covering famous people, locations in each Nordic nation, art, and even food, offering a broad range of learning opportunities. Complementing each letter is a large colorful illustration in a watercolor style, and these were quite appealing to my young readers.

For each letter of the alphabet, there is a short poem as well as multi-paragraph text. This two-tiered format of text meets the needs of all levels of readers. The short rhyming poem about the key word can be read aloud to a younger child or read independently by a young reader, though the vocabulary sometimes proves to be a bit of a challenge. These poems are in a slightly larger font than the other text, making them stand out on the page. The author manages to represent many countries within one book, focusing mostly on similarities in Nordic culture.

The more challenging text on each page comprises multiple paragraphs that contain much more detailed information than the short poem. These paragraphs run along the outer edges of the page and go into enough depth to make the book a valuable resource on a wide variety of topics.

The "Discover the World" series has a companion website: www.discovertheworldbooks.com where readers can find a variety of country-specific games, maps, and activities that might add to the learning experience. Keep in mind that these links take you off the main website and onto independent websites that might change periodically and perhaps not be family-friendly. We were disappointed to find one page with a broken link when browsing online. While this website is a nice addition in theory, it does not add any real value to the book itself, which is valuable on its own. For families wishing to pursue extra learning about Nordic countries, independent Web searches would likely suffice without the specialized website the book offers.

We really enjoy the way D Is for Dala Horse appeals to all the children in our family, and that, coupled with its attractive cover art, is enough to keep the book on our shelves permanently. Whether it's used for fun or for specifically educational purposes, this book is a gem and worth seeking out.

Product review by Melissa Theberge, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2011

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