On Beyond Zebra!

Book review by
Peter Lewis, Common Sense Media
On Beyond Zebra! Book Poster Image
Made-up alphabet book has fun wordplay, tired stereotype.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Imaginatively expands the Latin alphabet. Introduces the idea that people make up their alphabets.

Positive Messages

Alphabets can be fun. Making up names of imaginary creatures is fun. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The narrator is funny, silly, creative. But one image of a Middle Eastern-type character is stereotypically portrayed wearing a head scarf and billowy pants and riding on the hump of a creature that looks like a camel. 

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that On Beyond Zebra! imagines 20 new letters that come after Z, and Dr. Seuss provides the pronunciation and word examples that go with them. The story plays second fiddle to the verse, which is a wry bit of nonsense that will keep kids giggling and word lovers happy, with wonderfully Seussian creatures as the Yuzz-a-ma-Tuzz and the High Gargel-orum. First published in 1955, the book also includes a stereotypical portrayal of a mustachioed Middle Eastern-type character wearing a head scarf and billowy pants and riding on a camel-like beast.

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What's the story?

In ON BEYOND ZEBRA!, the main character, a young White boy, explains that Z is a good letter, yes indeed -- but so is YUZZ, which comes after Z, you see. And WUM and UM and THNAD and FLUNN, which come after YUZZ. This book has lots more mischievous and mind-expanding verbal hijinks -- and fabulous fictional creatures -- from Dr. Seuss.

 

Is it any good?

This zany book lets kids take a break from the difficult work of learning their letters and be thankful that there are only 26 letters in the Latin (or Roman) alphabet. Older readers can have fun reading the words with brio and dash, accelerating up through those Nutches in their Nitches. The youngest can simply delight in having the loopy verse read to them while they scan the fanciful images. However, be aware that one image relies on a Middle Eastern stereotype: a man with head scarf and billowy pants riding on a camel-like creature. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the new letters in the alphabet in On Beyond Zebra! Did you know that different languages can have different alphabets? Can you think of another alphabet that looks different from the one you use in your language?

  • Can you recite all the letters in your alphabet? Try coming up with some new letters after the last letter.

  • What's your favorite letter of the alphabet? Why do you like it?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love Dr. Seuss

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