While the larger format of the similarly themed Take Away the A, by Michaël Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo (2014), is more...

THE ALPHABET THIEF

In rhyming text, this nontraditional alphabet book playfully depicts a thief in the act of stealing the letters of the alphabet from A to Z.

“The Alphabet Thief stole all of the A’s, / And all of the coats became cots. / All of the fairs were turned into firs, / And all of the boats became bots.” The verse never falters as the thief makes her way through the alphabet. Clever handling of the letter Q pairs it with U, turning “queasy” into “easy” and “squash” into “sash.” What the black-cloaked thief doesn’t see is that she is being followed by the narrator, a red-haired, white sleuth in beret and ponytail with a dog sidekick. Can they stop this terrible thief? Of course. The gumshoe takes all the Y’s and Z’s, turns them into slingshots and “ammo” and fires them at the thief, who promptly falls asleep. The ink-and-watercolor illustrations share space with the text in energetically varied layouts, the diminutive trim reminiscent of the old Nutshell Library books. The ending poses a small problem for libraries by addressing readers: “And who was the hero who saved the day? / It was me! You can write my name here.”

While the larger format of the similarly themed Take Away the A, by Michaël Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo (2014), is more suitable for group sharing, this sneaky romp will do well one-on-one. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55498877-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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A solo debut for Wenzel showcasing both technical chops and a philosophical bent.

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THEY ALL SAW A CAT

Wouldn’t the same housecat look very different to a dog and a mouse, a bee and a flea, a fox, a goldfish, or a skunk?

The differences are certainly vast in Wenzel’s often melodramatic scenes. Benign and strokable beneath the hand of a light-skinned child (visible only from the waist down), the brindled cat is transformed to an ugly, skinny slinker in a suspicious dog’s view. In a fox’s eyes it looks like delectably chubby prey but looms, a terrifying monster, over a cowering mouse. It seems a field of colored dots to a bee; jagged vibrations to an earthworm; a hairy thicket to a flea. “Yes,” runs the terse commentary’s refrain, “they all saw the cat.” Words in italics and in capital letters in nearly every line give said commentary a deliberate cadence and pacing: “The cat walked through the world, / with its whiskers, ears, and paws… // and the fish saw A CAT.” Along with inviting more reflective viewers to ruminate about perception and subjectivity, the cat’s perambulations offer elemental visual delights in the art’s extreme and sudden shifts in color, texture, and mood from one page or page turn to the next.

A solo debut for Wenzel showcasing both technical chops and a philosophical bent. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4521-5013-0

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Sweet—and savory.

THE KEEPER OF WILD WORDS

When a girl visits her grandmother, a writer and “grand friend,” she is seeking something special to share at show and tell on the first day of school.

Before Brook can explain, Mimi expresses concern that certain words describing the natural world will disappear if someone doesn’t care for and use them. (An author’s note explains the author’s motivation: She had read of the removal of 100 words about outdoor phenomena from the Oxford Junior Dictionary.) The duo sets out to search for and experience the 19 words on Mimi’s list, from “acorn” and “buttercup” to “violet” and “willow.” Kloepper’s soft illustrations feature green and brown earth tones that frame the white, matte pages; bursts of red, purple, and other spot colors enliven the scenes. Both Mimi and Brook are depicted as white. The expedition is described in vivid language, organized as free verse in single sentences or short paragraphs. Key words are printed in color in a larger display type and capital letters. Sensory details allow the protagonist to hear, see, smell, taste, and hold the wild: “ ‘Quick! Make a wish!’ said Mimi, / holding out a DANDELION, / fairy dust sitting on a stem. / ‘Blow on it and the seeds will fly. / Your tiny wishes in the air.’ ” It’s a day of wonder, with a touch of danger and a solution to Brook’s quest. The last page forms an envelope for readers’ own vocabulary collections.

Sweet—and savory. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7073-2

Page Count: 62

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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