Here’s another ABC book that takes an unusual theme and manipulates the device for a very sophisticated audience.
Picture-book-age children will not be familiar with the term “steampunk,” which is best known as a subgenre of fantasy and science fiction. The label typically features fantasy worlds powered by steam and clockwork and retro-futuristic inventions, often in a Victorian-style setting. Falkenstern takes that construct and adds two adorable mice, dressed in Victorian clothing, who use gadgets and found objects to invent machines, mostly using everyday tools. A is for Anvil; M is for Monkey wrench; P is for Periscope; Q is for Quartz; W is for Windsock; X Marks the spot; Z is for Zeppelin. Though there is no narrative as such, savvy readers will wonder what the various contrivances are leading to, if anything. The last page reveals the answer, as the mice float off on the zeppelin that they have contrived to build. The intricately detailed illustrations are quite fascinating and eye-catching, with the mice sporting French cuffs and bow ties, and one wears a red vest and derby hat. The disparity between format and content begs the eternal question, though: Who is the audience for this book?
Though just a context-void bagatelle for actual children, perhaps teen and adult steampunk enthusiasts will take a look. (Picture book. 12 & up)