Parents' Guide to

Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters

By Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 5+

Funny alphabet stories have some big words, mild dark side.

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ONCE UPON AN ALPHABET is a delightfully absurd collection of very short stories illustrated with charm and wit. It's probably better suited to kids who are already familiar with the alphabet, because some of the letters are shown in a handwritten, cursive style that adds interest and whimsy but may confuse early learners. Resolution is inconsistent: Some stories have no resolution, some are satisfying on their own, and some have surprise resolutions that appear many pages later. Jeffers achieves a nice balance between the short-story format, which makes it easy and fun to pick up for a few quick pages, and the continuity of recurring characters, which makes it a pleasure to sit down with and savor all the way through.

The advanced vocabulary is a big bite for some ("ingenious" and "molecule," for example), and the illustrations don't always show the meanings. There's also a mild dark side, slightly reminiscent of Lemony Snicket or Edward Gorey. But don't let that scare you off: It's a wonderful way to move beyond the same old "A is for apple" lesson. Kids will love going along for adventure, excitement, and mystery with the wonderfully intriguing characters.

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