Montessori Shape Work, by Bobby and June George, illustrated by Alyssa Nassner
Montessori Shape Work by Bobby and June George is yet another great book in their series of educational books as well as another superb book from AbramsAppleseed, an imprint dedicated to instilling a love of books in babies and toddlers by publishing books that will "foster development of its young readers and engage them and their adults in artful, beautifully conceived books." (For reviews of other AbramsAppleseed books, click here.) I reviewed the first two books in this series, Letter Work and Number Work, last year. Two of my three kids attended Montessori preschools and, especially after reading Wild Boy : The Real Life Savage of Aveyron and learning how the educational practices first developed in the early 1800s influenced Maria Montessori over one hundred years later, I have a growing appreciation for her methods.
As with Letter Work and Number Work, the Georges begin their book with a letter to parents describing the Montessori Method, which also clues you in as to how to get the most out of the book you may be about to put in your child's hands. With Montessori Shape Work by explaining that the focus is on the concrete over the abstract when teaching something new. Shape work should begin with tracing the shapes to understand the similarities and differences between, in this case, a triangle. To accommodate this, Montessori Shape Work has cut outs that allow your child to trace the shape, letter or number. Next, the shape is presented as part of real world object, like a roof, in the case of the triangle. Finally, the child experiences the shape along with its proper name. It sounds like a lot of steps to get to that moment, but when you think about it, a triangle or the letter "X" or the number "5" is a completely abstract thing to all children at some point. Circling around it while introducing it feels a bit more empathetic and intuitive and, as the George's assure parents, helps children to acquire "invaluable spatial and mathematical skills, the Montessori way." Once again, Alyssa Nassner illustrates with a palette that is muted but pleasing, her images immediately recognizable but elegant.