Letter by letter, Iwata builds a steampunk world for a story that does not exist and formats it for an audience that can’t possibly comprehend it.
This alphabet board book presents gizmos galore, each handsomely presented with puffs of steam and ornate clockwork decorations. Through the artifacts described, adult readers can begin to understand the civilization that spawned them. A is for Apple (an apple-shaped music box, that is); J is for Jar (a self-opening one); Y is for Yarn (actually, a device that unravels knitwear and re-spools the constituent yarns). Each contrivance is depicted in loving detail, colors applied with an airbrushed (or digital) polish. A short gloss explains its origin and/or use, and it is celebrated in limping verse, as for Helmet: “With steam-powered engines in every household / A good fuel source was more precious than gold / Miners dug deep in the earth and discovered / They stood more of a chance if they kept their heads covered.” Except for the roughly 6-inch-square trim, board pages and large capital letters (presented against a too-busy background of interlocking gears), there is nothing in this book for the traditional board-book audience.
The handsome production values and sincere enthusiasm can’t be denied, but it’s hard to imagine the right audience for this book. (Board book. 13 & up)