Summary: GREAT! Having gone through what feels like every workbook known to man - or at least Borders, I feel like I can finally stop my quest for the perfect workbook. The book's colors are vibrant, the pictures contemporary, and the content interesting.
Topics are color coded and separated by subject: phonics, reading, social studies, science, sequencing, measurements, math. I am really impressed with the mix of different subjects, especially the science, which is often overlooked in workbooks. The topics are age-appropriate, for instance coloring the land masses and oceans of the earth, reading a short passage on the sun and answering questions (e.g. Is the sun a planet or a star?).
There is a wide mix of ability levels within each subject, except maybe reading. The phonics starts very simply (shows pictures and the name, missing the first letter, and a list of a few letters d,f,g and the child writes in the letter it starts with). It then builds up including recognition of ch, sh, th words. I felt the reading section started at a bit higher level than the other sections ("This is a dragon.") already assuming your child has mastered sight words and sounding out. So, struggling readers may want to move back a workbook level (or better yet, get both).
The math section is really, really great. It moves from writing numbers to addition and subtraction, carefully showing the different forms that problems are written in (e.g. both horizontal and vertical). First the picture may look something like this *** + ** = ***** and your child would write 3 + 2 = 5. A few pages of practice and the next section would look like *** + ** = ________, so it is building on task sequencing skills and stepping the child into learning how to decode and solve the problem. Kudos here. The pictures are cute and engaging. Within the measurement section, my daughter especially loved measuring monsters using a ruler (included on the page) - again, nice skill building.
This book is amazingly full of a diverse number of activities. At the current price, it is a steal. The quality of the materials is better than a lot that comes home.
Cons: The font used is not consistent - in some parts of the book, the a's and g's are those fancy curly-q things that no one actually uses when writing (see the a here). This is difficult for a beginning writer who is trying to write a difficult word (e.g. a picture of a girl eating ice cream - a fill in sentence: "The girl is eating ______." with a word bank: cookies, gum, ice cream). For a child copying the words for the spelling, it would be better for the letters to be consistent throughout the book and in the form with which we want them to write.
The stickers are really not that fabulous - they consist of only a few designs repeated several times (stars, letters, cat, dog). They seem like an afterthought, so I don't mind, but be warned.
Some of the sections were a bit brief. There was little to do with each measurement section, so she burned through it in two sittings. But, she's prolific and begs to do her "work".
Placement: This is tricky. The material does move from easier to harder, except what I noted about reading, so I would be a little optimistic with your selection so that the material increases with your child and doesn't become too easy. I would pick the level true to your child's highest LEVEL rather than the grade they're in - not too easy, not too hard. A struggling 1st grade reader may need a K book, which will do more for them in terms of content mastery than this book, which assumes they've got it. Our older child has a learning disability, so I'm speaking from experience here - push too hard and too high of a level and they will become unmotivated and will just give up. I like this book because it builds on task sequencing, which I wish we had for our son; however picking the right level is critical. Not too hard! This should be fun and something they can succeed at so they want to do it!
If you are thinking about this book, here's what my thoughts were when picking this level: My 4 y.o. "preschooler" knows a good number of her sight words, all the letters, the names of the oceans and continents. So, I selected the 1st grade book. She is working in it without frustration, and that is the key. She seeks the book out and completes about 5-7 pages in a sitting. Do expect to sit with your child and work with them on some activities, but it should be without frustration. The reading in this book is not a perfect fit for us. She has trouble with sounding out words, and I don't want her to work beyond her comfort level, hence, I will be purchasing the K book as well. There was a lot of reading and writing in the reading section, and it required a child knew all 100 sight words from K, plus could sound out new words, and could form a complete sentence from information they read. Ultimately, I feel this book is absolutely consistent with the breadth of the 1st grade curricula, so should be appropriate for an average just finished K or just starting 1st child.
Edit: I forgot to add that the answers are included in the back and that the pictures are all easy to identify. We have some alphabet flash cards that ask you to identify all things that start with "Q" - and then proceeds to show a picture of a quail - you won't find anything that ambiguous in this book.