When children first learn the alphabet song, many enjoy hearing the way the letters L, M, N, O, and P run together. Author/illustrator Keith Baker plays off of this delight in the title for his 2010 book, L M N O Peas. This book features peas – which may be a purposeful choice meant to eliminate young readers’ dislike of them – sharing their identities for each letter of the alphabet. For example, for G, H, and I, the peas say, “We’re gardeners, gigglers, givers and takers. We’re hikers, inventors, and investigators.”
After a quick read-through, the bright illustrations and simple rhymes may make this book seem like it can only be enjoyed by a young audience. However, the multifaceted drawings and more complex identities (“electricians” and “zoologists” are two of the more difficult ones) ensure that it will entertain an older audience, too. Its humor (a pea dressed as Elvis Presley accompanies the text “and some of us are kings”) even guarantees that parents and teachers reading will enjoy it too.
L M N O Peas’s originality lies in its ability to connect identity to more than just careers. Although careers are used for some of the letters, other identities more relatable to children are also included, such as “artists,” “campers,” and “kickers.” My favorite page has the peas as “readers,” with them reading individually and in groups, surrounded by huge piles of books. It shows a bigger and smaller pea reading together (perhaps a parent and child), which shows the young children reading this book that they can still adopt the identity of “reader” even if they are just beginning to learn.
Baker’s book will certainly help readers at all levels with their knowledge of the alphabet. Reading it could be even more meaningful if afterwards, parents or teachers encourage children to brainstorm and reflect on their own identities. L M N O Peas is a delightful read that can inspire children to explore their individuality, while simultaneously improving their reading abilities.
-Review by Grace Hill