For young children, My Buddy Knows Letters offers a flash card early learning experience in a picture book.
Author Keith Wheeler is a family man in every sense of the word. Married to his high school sweetheart since 1997, he has amassed a tribe of four children in Missouri, USA. When joined with a lifetime love for writing, a children’s picture book was inevitable. The My Buddy Knows series looks to replicate the early learning technique of flash cards in book form. The idea is wonderfully simple. My buddy knows the answer, but do you know the answer? The first book in Wheeler’s series is Letters.
My Buddy Knows Letters Story Review
Keith Wheeler is clear about his goal and how to approach it with My Buddy Knows Letters. Avoiding the temptation to over-complicate this early learning children’s picture book, the experience is stripped right back. The layout places an image on a right-hand page, asking the parent to prompt their child. What is this picture? And what does it start with? The reader then flips the page to get the answer and the next picture.
For the most part the image selection is spot-on. It was nice to see a few entries that aren’t cliché, like rocket for R. Most selected images clearly have only one answer, too. Although going with an image of a basketball for B, with the answer being just ball, could cause some confusion. On that, it was great to see the majority of words chosen aren’t American-centric. As an Australian, I was not confused at any point by unusual Americanisms. You could say it has been written in “global English.”
I like the design concept, too. The attempt to mimic the experience of flash cards by placing question and answer on either side of the same page works well. Elsewhere, the design is very simple, dominated by white space. The font is bold and wisely chosen to be simple and easily identified by children. (And grandparents!)
My Buddy Knows Letters Technical Review
My overly-critical designer eye noted that many images sit slightly low on the page, not centred between the text evenly. The style of the art varies quite a bit, too. It’s varied enough that Wheeler gets away with it, but if you were to look at it from a distance you would instantly notice the inconsistencies. Put the Apple image next to the Frog and you wonder how they're in the same book.
Thankfully, readers are joined by a character, Josh – the buddy. He looks like a South Park character, minus the filth. His wise inclusion is the constant that runs through the experience and makes it cohesive. And when he pops up on every page his cheery expression adds to the fun. I do wonder if going with an amphomorphic character without an obvious sex may have allowed both girls and boys to better relate to the character. But in general the art carries a sense of joy that can’t be denied. Just look at the very cheery zebra that closes the experience!
My Buddy Knows Letters is about as simple as a children’s picture book can get, but it nails its target audience. I can imagine this was a low-cost production, allowing it to earn a profit quickly. This will power the series onward and allow Keith Wheeler to experiment with new concepts. Also, potentially, allow him to be more expansive with his art. For example, there is only one Josh image, displayed in different ways, rather than Josh having multiple looks, expressions and actions.
I’d be interested to see where Wheeler takes his buddy character and whether it can extend into subject matter that stays relevant to fans as they age. My buddy knows that would be interesting.
- Author: Keith Wheeler
- Illustrator: Keith Wheeler
- Suitable for: Ages 2-4
- Where to Buy: Amazon
Where to Next?
Are you looking for more great children’s books? Then visit the Old Mate Media library. If you are an author or illustrator looking to make their own children’s book, then look through our services in the main menu, or read our step-by-step guide. For authors and illustrators already published who would like to have their book reviewed, then head here to learn more.