Clever rhyming couplets and soft pastel illustrations make for an amusing alphabet book in author/illustrator Strauss’ picture book debut.
Without bothering with the “A is for...” structure, Strauss launches into a silly poem about dancing ants to introduce the letter A. The next page is graced by a polka-dot butterfly, drawn, it appears, in a combination of paint and stamp art. Each poem scans well, varying rhyme schemes and rhythm structure. Many of the choices are general and familiar, such as eagles for E and lion for L. Others are unusual: mongoose, veery (a songbird), xyphosura (horseshoe crab). Several illustrations are realistic, with lovely detail (especially the frog’s bog); others are more fancifully rendered: Both the calico cat and the donkey look more like stuffed animals, with textile-inspired patterns on their coats. The images are intriguing and done in a mix of styles that look painted or sketched and filled in with colored pencils. The page layouts place the text into the pictures with a large border around each page featuring a letter. Full of interesting vocabulary words (“paisley,” “sedentary”), older readers will find some challenge, while lap readers will enjoy the rhymes.
Alphabet books are plentiful, but this charmer is a standout.