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Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, June 30, 2000

Island Heritage
"Z" page from Island-Style Alphabet
shows a zebra holding a zori.

Fun path to
ABCs, island style


Bullet "Island-Style Alphabet,"
written and illustrated by Tammy Yee
(Island Heritage), 40 pages, hardcover, $12.95

By Cynthia Oi


THE beauty of Tammy Yee's newest children's book is in the details.

The simple "Island-Style Alphabet," like many books of its type, illustrates words that begin with a specific letter to help youngsters learn. For example, the letter "C" depicts a Chinese lion dancing through a Chinatown street.

What makes Yee's book delightful are the other "C" objects that surround the drawing's focal point: char siu hanging from skewers, a chicken being chased by a claws-out cat that is wearing a carnation lei, coffee berries on a bush planted in a can, a boy holding a crab with chopsticks and the chiles on his plate, a woman wearing a cheongsam with embroidered chrysanthemums and holding a camera, a little boy playing with a toy car, pieces of hard candy, cups on a shelf, chicks on the collar of a girl's dress, another girl with a crown flower lei, and a cricket eluding the chicken.

Yee, who lives in Hilo, is a self-taught artist and the mother of two boys, according to her publisher, Island Heritage. Her first picture book was "Baby Honu's Incredible Journey," which is among Hawaii's best sellers. She also produced "Baby Honu Saves the Day," "Iki, the Littlest 'Opihi" and "The Ugly 'Elepaio."

The text for "Island-Style Alphabet" is in simple rhymes, again to help children learn. Most of the poems are accompanied by a list of words and definitions in English, Hawaiian and other languages, and Yee includes many island ethnic groups in her drawings.

An addendum lists some of the objects in each illustration, but not all of them, so older children -- and even adults -- will enjoy searching the pictures.

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