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


From the Once Upon a World series

A nice but not requisite purchase.

A retelling of the classic fairy tale in board-book format and with a Mexican setting.

Though simplified for a younger audience, the text still relates the well-known tale: mean-spirited stepmother, spoiled stepsisters, overworked Cinderella, fairy godmother, glass slipper, charming prince, and, of course, happily-ever-after. What gives this book its flavor is the artwork. Within its Mexican setting, the characters are olive-skinned and dark-haired. Cultural references abound, as when a messenger comes carrying a banner announcing a “FIESTA” in beautiful papel picado. Cinderella is the picture of beauty, with her hair up in ribbons and flowers and her typically Mexican many-layered white dress. The companion volume, Snow White, set in Japan and illustrated by Misa Saburi, follows the same format. The simplified text tells the story of the beautiful princess sent to the forest by her wicked stepmother to be “done away with,” the dwarves that take her in, and, eventually, the happily-ever-after ending. Here too, what gives the book its flavor is the artwork. The characters wear traditional clothing, and the dwarves’ house has the requisite shoji screens, tatami mats and cherry blossoms in the garden. The puzzling question is, why the board-book presentation? Though the text is simplified, it’s still beyond the board-book audience, and the illustrations deserve full-size books.

A nice but not requisite purchase. (Board book/fairy tale. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7915-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017


From the Who's in Your Book? series

Playful, engaging, and full of opportunities for empathy—a raucous storytime hit.

Readers try to dislodge a monster from the pages of this emotive and interactive read-aloud.

“OH NO!” the story starts. “There’s a monster in your book!” The blue, round-headed monster with pink horns and a pink-tipped tail can be seen cheerfully munching on the opening page. “Let’s try to get him out,” declares the narrator. Readers are encouraged to shake, tilt, and spin the book around, while the monster careens around an empty background looking scared and lost. Viewers are exhorted to tickle the monster’s feet, blow on the page, and make a really loud noise. Finally, shockingly, it works: “Now he’s in your room!” But clearly a monster in your book is safer than a monster in your room, so he’s coaxed back into the illustrations and lulled to sleep, curled up under one page and cuddling a bit of another like a child with their blankie. The monster’s entirely cute appearance and clear emotional reactions to his treatment add to the interactive aspect, and some young readers might even resist the instructions to avoid hurting their new pal. Children will be brought along on the monster’s journey, going from excited, noisy, and wiggly to calm and steady (one can hope).

Playful, engaging, and full of opportunities for empathy—a raucous storytime hit. (Picture book. 2-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6456-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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