An amusing abecedary despite some rocky scansion.




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.

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9990864-0-7

Page Count: 68

Publisher: Stillwater River Publications

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2018

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This companion piece to the other fairy tales Marcia Brown has interpreted (see Puss In Boots, 1952, p. 548 and others) has the smoothness of a good translation and a unique charm to her feathery light pictures. The pictures have been done in sunset colors and the spreads on each page as they illustrate the story have the cumulative effect of soft cloud banks. Gentle.

Pub Date: June 15, 1954

ISBN: 0684126761

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1954

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The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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