Investigate and Appreciate Nature with S is for Salmon: A Pacific Northwest Alphabet

How does your child typically interact with a picture book during a read aloud?

The process of our nightly reading sessions can be fairly predictable.  Things usually go the same way:  One parent selects books (from the shelf or library bag) along with the help of 2.5 year old Bergen, we read the pages, Bergen remarks here and there, and we move on to brushing teeth and getting into bed. An extremely important routine, yes, but not necessarily anything remarkable or amazing happening in the day to day.

When I cracked open the new book by Hannah Viano, S is for Salmon: A Pacific Northwest Alphabet, Bergen’s reaction to the illustrations and interaction with the pages was slightly different though. It made me stop to observe.

Investigate and Appreciate Nature with S is for Salmon: A Pacific Northwest Alphabet |

Image courtesy of Sasquatch Books

He reached out to the paper-cut art work as if he could actually feel the texture.  It was like in his mind these pages and the pictures shown were not ordinary.  Bergen was trying to sweep his fingers across to touch the shiny, smooth shell of the Dungeness crab and grab the bristly edges of the Douglas fir tree.

The author of S is for Salmon grew up on the coast of Maine and has more recently come to call Seattle home.  The book was inspired by her explorations around the Pacific Northwest with her young son.  Quick and simple, yet fascinating, facts join the familiar alphabet book format based on plants, animals and natural phenomena found throughout Cascadia.

The illustrations are paper-cuts that Viano created by chipping away at black paper, and began has sets of images for display at libraries, schools, and other children’s programs.   Color was added to the designs along with beautifully crafted words about each item forming this amazing keepsake and learning tool for children and adults alike.

Investigate and Appreciate Nature with S is for Salmon: A Pacific Northwest Alphabet |

Photo courtesy of

What’s to Love?

  • Viano’s crisp, clear paper-cut images stand out.  Popping out on the page, the art almost forces our eyes to focus, with many pieces allowing for close-up observations of the selected flora or fauna.  These close-up displays give us a perspective we may not otherwise be able to see in our quick (or nonexistent) encounters outside in nature.
  • I enjoy how the author ranges from featuring obvious Northwest standbys (like salmon, pine cones, and eagles) that many will know and recognize to more obscure items (morels, nettles, and zephyrs) that add to our collection of things to see and notice on our adventures.
  • Through her paper-cuts, Viano highlights the strong characteristics of each organism featured in the book.  She’s given us clues to work with in identifying the plants and animals for ourselves when we are out and about!
  • There’s a lot to learn! The facts included with each image are quick and simple, but not ordinary and necessarily known by all.  For example, through the book, I learned that gulls drop crabs and clams onto rocks in order to break the shell open!
  • With so many ways to experience the art and text, the book is versatile and we will be return to the pages again and again.  Here are ways to guide each reading session:
    • Picture focus
    • Alphabet focus
    • Text/fact focus
    • Combinations of all three!
  • Children need to be exposed to more informational text starting at a young age in order to cultivate their skills in understanding the more technical language that comes with the nonfiction books they’ll need to read as they get older.  S is for Salmon is not only informative, but highly appealing and engaging, which will provide preschoolers and young elementary school children a great stepping stone toward higher level text.

What’s to be Desired?

It may not be possible with the type of art work produced for the book, but as a mother of a sticky, unpredictable toddler, I’d love a board book version of S is for Salmon! Adding indents and notches where the paper-cuts appear would also add to the texture that my little guy envisioned and thus creating an even greater tactile experience.

Info to Know:

  • To purchase a copy of S is for Salmon: A Pacific Northwest Alphabet by Hannah Viano visit the Sasquatch Books website!
  • Format: Hardcover, 6 1/2 x 9 inches, 32 pages
  • Retail cost: $16.99

Disclosure: Thanks to Sasquatch Books for providing me  with a copy of S is for Salmon for purposes of review. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Investigate and Appreciate Nature with S is for Salmon: A Pacific Northwest Alphabet |

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