It begins where you begin:/ a ladder to fables,/an arrow pointing out the stars./ It begins with something to climb on/ and ends with a dazzling Z."" It, we are to presume, is the alphabet. And so ""It begins [in earnest this time] with A,/ secret and determined."" But the book is not for beginners, what with Foolish F who ""comes showing off words like/ fallow and famish and faun/ comes whispering tings like/ fandango."" Like A, each letter is awarded a trait or two--sometimes fancifully associated with its shape, sometimes totally capricious. In the most succinct image, ""C"" is ""the [crescent] moon's cousin."" ""V,"" more typically, is ""pointed yet shy./ V who was once in love with A and stood on her head./ V, the impossible valentine, writing veiled verses, vacuous odes."" In the course of previewing literacy's heady delights, ostensibly for a little girl named Emily, Wersba evokes snowflakes, butterflies, and blossoms swirling upward; crystal grottos and kingdoms of jade; rainbows and unicorns; and other romantic clichÃ‰s--all of which Palladini envisions with swooning vacuity in the manner of fantasy postcards and cosmic record jackets.