A Helpful Alphabet of Friendly Objects: Poems

Book review by
Mary LeCompte, Common Sense Media
A Helpful Alphabet of Friendly Objects: Poems Book Poster Image
Poetry collection could become a kids' classic.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that they can rest easy: There's nothing here to worry about in terms of content. The author's poetry reflects a crisp, highly appealing writing style, and the accompanying photographs offer close-up, eye-catching views of kids, animals, and objects that young readers will love to talk about and pore over.

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What's the story?

Who can see the poetry in a vacuum cleaner and a shoelace? Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Updike, and he inspires his readers to see it too. His photographer son provides page after page of kid-centered images. This collection could easily become a childhood favorite.


Is it any good?

This book is a refreshing change from typical children's alphabet or poetry fare. It assumes what most kids already know: To get their attention, you've got to appeal to their imagination and creativity. Any book that likens an icicle to "tiger teeth" and describes a vacuum cleaner as "the nosy old hummer" that "bump-rubs every corner / so every crumb / of dust and fuzz vanishes / into its hum" definitely does just that -- and more.

In addition to the music of Updike's poetry, one read-aloud group loved the photos, abundant images of kids with familiar objects that inspired discussion about the listeners' own experiences. And the endpages, which got almost as much attention as the rest of the book, feature color-block squares with alternating alphabet letters and photos from the book's main pages. At least four members of the audience made a game out of matching the letters to their corresponding objects.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the fact that the book is a collection of poems themed alphabetically from A to Z. Why did the author choose that structure? Which poem was your favorite -- and why? Parents can also challenge their kids to pick a letter from the alphabet and try to write a poem of their own about a subject that starts with that letter. For a real challenge, try Q, X or Z!

Book details

  • Author: John Updike
  • Illustrator: David Updike
  • Genre: Poetry
  • Book type: Non-Fiction
  • Publication date: January 1, 1995
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 4 - 7
  • Number of pages: 40
  • Last updated: November 15, 2019

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