The Alphabet from A to Y, with Bonus Letter Z

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
The Alphabet from A to Y, with Bonus Letter Z Book Poster Image
Wild and crazy alphabet humor best for older kids.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Some gentle name calling but most is pure silliness; reference to hunchbacks on the H page is the most offensive. Also, Clarissa is clunky, David is dog-faced, Jason is jerky, and N is filled with nerds, nitwits and nincompoops.

Violence & Scariness

On the P page, Pedro the puppy piled poop on his paws; On L, long Louie is called "Lowlife" and accused of telling a "lousy lie."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, though this is a very entertaining, clever, funny alphabet book, it really may not be appropriate for younger kids. Most little kids will not get much of the humor, and the joking references to alcohol and poop as well as name-calling are meant more for older readers. Also, phonics fanatics may be irritated by the mix of hard and soft sounds on the letter pages. However, older readers, including adults, will find this whole approach to the alphabet unique and very entertaining.

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What's the story?

The scene on each left-hand page is filled with cleverly drawn pictures of words starting with the letter given. Each letter is shown in large print, and then exemplified in a goofy alliterative couplet on the right-hand page.

Is it any good?

Alphabet books are fun, but most are written for younger readers; this one is more on the unique and zany side than most, and its humor is definitely pointed toward an older audience. This creates a weird situation: While readers of any age might enjoy the book on some level, and parents will not tire of reading it to their children, most young readers will miss many of the clever jokes in both the drawings and the text. And some references are clearly inappropriate for more impressionable kids. Still, older kids -- who are the more appropriate audience -- may not be interested in a book about sounds and letters ... at least at first glance.

The cover, with its small details and intriguing title, is captivating. The inner covers are full of letter-based symbols chatting in cartoon fashion about their special skills and talents. And, from that point on, the silliness just grows! Letters from A to Y, and including the bonus z, are presented in unusual and playful illustrations that are sure to entertain all ages. The alliterative couplets that play on presented sounds are weird and crazy, and Steve Martin fans will hear his voice in the writing. From "Amiable Amy, Alice, and Andie" and "Bad Baby Bubbleducks" to "Yuri the yeti" and "Zany Zeno," the names of the characters as well as their scenarios reverberate with his off-the-wall humor. The illustrations drawn by Roz Chast are just as imaginative, and readers familiar with The New Yorker magazine will recognize the jittery lines of her intricately comic drawings. Here they fit perfectly with Martin's tone and make this a book well worth checking out.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the hidden references to words beginning with a, b, c, and so on, in the illustrations. Can you find each one, and do you learn anything new from them?

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