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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves


A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.


Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet