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OX, HOUSE, STICK by Don Robb


The History of Our Alphabet

by Don Robb & illustrated by Anne Smith

Pub Date: July 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-57091-609-0
Publisher: Charlesbridge

What could be simpler than ABC? Lots: A surprisingly complicated subject receives a treatment equally playful and explanatory, allowing readers to appreciate the journey our English alphabet has traveled from its inception in Egypt some 4,000 years ago. From A to Z, each letter is traced from the Sinai to Phoenicia, Greece and Rome, morphing from near pictograms to the abstract symbols we know today. The design incorporates representational illustrations, icons and sidebars to break this labyrinthine process down, allowing readers to see how a picture of an ox (aleph) was variously turned, flattened and extended to become an “A.” Robb’s narrative properly allows room for scholarly disagreement about letter development—does “D” come from a picture of a Phoenician door? Or is it a fish head?—without becoming too bogged down in detail; it also includes plenty of sidebars of relevant information to leaven what could be a very dry discussion with useful, fun facts. A brief discussion of other writing systems, a time line and additional resources for both kids and adults round out this pleasingly informative offering. (Nonfiction. 8-12)