This children’s book humorously imagines how the alphabet developed from “straights” and “rounds.”
In her debut, retired elementary school teacher Zasloff uses rhyming verse to tell a story of how the 26 letters of the alphabet sprang from two basic letters: X and O. Their origins are in tic-tac-toe, with neither letter “thinking their shapes might be bound / To change, rearrange, interchange and be found / To join something bigger than their playground.” As this example shows, Zasloff’s scansion can be clumsy, demanding stresses on the wrong syllable (such as the second syllable of “playground”). But the verse also features humor and drama as it describes the forces acting on X and O to transform them, and the illustrations by White (Empty Beaches, 2018, etc.) bring bright, kinetic, cartoonlike energy to every page. G, for example, originates when “A feisty boxer dares any O” to fight him; the illustration shows a giant boxing glove severely deforming an O, with lines of force radiating from the collision that makes it into a G. The crowd shouts “Gee! Gee!” and the downed fighter decides that “Since I’m not a round O, G is the name I will take.” Many other scenarios involve mayhem of some kind—an earthquake, a tornado—but also kid-friendly fun, such as drinking bubbly soda or getting a makeover. Each two-page spread supplies an explanation for the letter’s lowercase version, as well; when G’s “first child looks like an o on the go, / He adds a long curved tail to make her go slow.” These fanciful stories divide the alphabet by “rounds” (O, C, G, Q, S), “straights” (X, Z, Y, V, W), straights with humps (N, M, E, F, H, U), straights with style (T, K, I, J, L), rounds with bellies (D, B, P, R), and, last but not least, A. In some cases, these divisions seem arbitrary; what makes a W straight but an M humped? However, as the explanations aren’t based on the alphabet’s actual historical development, it’s all in good fun.
An amusing abecedary despite some rocky scansion.