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Book Review: Queen Vernita Visits the Blue Ice Mountains by Dawn Menge, Illustrated by Bobbi Switzer

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Queen Vernita of Oceaneer – originally encountered in Queen Vernita’s Visitors — is about to depart upon a twelve-month voyage of discovery to the Blue Ice Mountains. Each month she will entertain a new guest as they explore the plants, animals, and natural features of the Northern landscape together.

Using the same pattern as its predecessor for reinforcing the names of the months, days of the week, and number of days in a month, Queen Vernita Visits the Blue Ice Mountains provides additional drills within a story-like environment. This second installment shines in comparison though, as Menge keeps the content of this sequel tightly focused by putting more educational content into her work, rather than imparting funny topics of interest from her family members and friends.

This new degree of relevance to educators is a great improvement from her first effort. The twelve characters who visit with Queen Vernita as she vacations in the Blue Ice Mountains are still based upon those she knows and loves, but the activities they share as they learn about the world around them are far more sensible.

Illustrator Bobbi Switzer has returned as well to cast Queen Vernita and her crew in their educational adventures. Some of the perspective issues have been thankfully resolved from the first title (huge hands and inconsistently sized heads), though some quirks remain, such as Vernita’s eyes being black in the majority of the illustrations and blue in one or two. The same bright, two-pages per month spread is used throughout, with the illustration on one side, and the text on a color-coordinating facing page beside, resulting in a colourful reading experience.

Somewhat surprisingly, my 3.5 year old is totally into Queen Vernita Visits the Blue Ice Mountains she’s brought it to me several times to read to her. While it’s too wordy to make it through the year in a single sitting, she’s claimed it as a favourite. Although the text presents educational facts in a very straightforward fashion — on Monday they learned this, on Tuesday they learned that, and so on — my daughter is still picking up bits and pieces of knowledge. 

When we were reading October’s two-page spread I mentioned that seals were mammals (as we were learning about seals that month with Queen Vernita), which prompted her to quickly flip back to July — when Queen Vernita was learning about whales — saying “Just like these are mammals, mommy!” Taking some time to discuss and build upon the educational topics shared will increase the likelihood of such ‘a-ha!’ moments.

While Menge’s work seems to be developing into a charming entry into the world of children’s literature, it unfortunately remains priced far above the market norm for a slender paperback volume.

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