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The beauty of Balboa Park captured for young readers

Balboa Park: A to Z
Balboa Park: A to Z
By Jennifer G. Lanzrath; illustrated by Joy Raab

Ridgway Park Publishing: 2009

This review first appeared in the April 26, 2009 issue of the North County Times.

Those of us who call San Diego County home get regular access to one of the great urban parks in all the world – and a new illustrated children's book gives Balboa Park its full-color due.

"Balboa Park A to Z" reminds anew just how absolutely beautiful San Diego's jewel is, and is a nice example of the kinds of educational opportunities that exist all around us. Written by county resident Jennifer G. Lanzrath and illustrated by Poway's Joy Raab, the softcover, oversized book draws on the park's numerous attractions to teach young readers the alphabet.

But this is more than just a "learn to read" beginner's book. Lanzrath has taken a two-tiered approach in writing the book: Each page is lead off by a letter of the alphabet, with a short explanation in large text – with a more detailed explanation for older readers just below.

That combination means that while "Balboa Park A to Z" is a good book for first-graders just starting out, children as old as fourth or fifth grade are also still likely to enjoy reading the book as well. It also makes for a nice shared book between parents and their young readers. The new readers can read the letter and first paragraph, then mom or dad can read the rest aloud.

Raab's illustrations are warm, with soft edges that lend a romantic air to the book. And the map at the back is one of the best yet of the park.