An alphabetical menagerie of animals—with an interpersonal twist.
One by one, this picture-book version of a getting-to-know-you game introduces obscure “facts” about each included animal. Each entry presents a large-font letter of the alphabet in upper- and lowercase followed by a sentence or two. For example, “Iguanas sometimes get homesick on sleepovers,” and “Jellyfish don’t care if you think they look funny when they dance.” Sometimes, the animals (which may as well be stand-ins for human children) even flip the traditional script, with dragons crying at happy endings, unicorns believing in themselves, or zebras wanting to be first for a change. Whether socially or in terms of self-awareness, the messages contained within each entry approximate universality. But even when O’Leary writes in absolutes, Grant’s illustrations sometimes include an animal or two who stray from the pack—a subtle celebration of diversity. The light sprinkle of visual and verbal humor keeps the book’s truisms from feeling stale. Readers may not connect with every animal, but they’ll likely see pieces of themselves (or people they know) here and there. The book’s dark cover gives it a nighttime feel, but Grant’s muted, stylized interior illustrations are surrounded by white space. Endpapers list the whole alphabet alongside hidden miniatures of each letter’s animal, inviting readers to make predictions before reading.
Don’t let the owls keep this unusual book secret. It deserves to be shared. (Picture book. 3-6)