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Review of Once Upon an Alphabet

jeffers_once-upon-an-alphabetstar2 Once Upon an Alphabet
by Oliver Jeffers; illus. by the author
Primary, Intermediate   Philomel   112 pp.
10/14   978-0-399-16791-1   $26.99

Each letter of the alphabet gets its own little story in this picture book that is much more than a simple set of ABCs. Whimsical, funny, occasionally tragic, and highly entertaining, this collection of (sometimes) interlocking tales is brilliantly inventive, from A (for astronaut Edmund, who is afraid of heights) to Z (for the zeppelin Edmund flies four daring feet above the ground). Jeffers’s loose cartoon style lends itself to visual humor, with lots of sight gags delivered through line and color, such as daredevil Delilah boldly confronting all danger except the bellowing of her father when she’s late for dinner. The stories are each four pages long and made up of just a few sentences, which often feature alliteration: “Mary is made of matter. So is her mother. And her mother’s moose.” The pictures frequently incorporate more words in bubbles, captions, and labels. Each letter brings its own delights, whether it is robots who steal rain clouds because they don’t like getting wet or the enigmatic letter Q, in which a uniformed man searches around, under, and behind the book’s pages for a missing question. Although alphabet books are usually for younger children, it’s older kids who will delight here in the cleverness of the concepts and their execution.

From the January/February 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Susan Dove Lempke About Susan Dove Lempke

Susan Dove Lempke is a Horn Book reviewer and director of the Niles Public Library District in Illinois.

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