An amusing abecedary despite some rocky scansion.

BEGINNING WITH XS AND OS

THE EVOLUTION OF THE ALPHABET

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

MAYBE

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

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GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS

With the same delightfully irreverent spirit that he brought to his retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood" (1987), Marshall enlivens another favorite. Although completely retold with his usual pungent wit and contemporary touches ("I don't mind if I do," says Goldilocks, as she tries out porridge, chair, and bed), Marshall retains the stories well-loved pattern, including Goldilocks escaping through the window (whereupon Baby Bear inquires, "Who was that little girl?"). The illustrations are fraught with delicious humor and detail: books that are stacked everywhere around the rather cluttered house, including some used in lieu of a missing leg for Papa Bear's chair; comically exaggerated beds—much too high at the head and the foot; and Baby Bear's wonderfully messy room, which certainly brings the story into the 20th century. Like its predecessor, perfect for several uses, from picture-book hour to beginning reading.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1988

ISBN: 0140563660

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1988

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