An ABC book for all ages features the artist/author’s illustrations of unusual words in unexpected combinations, from “apperceptive achatina” to “zooid zeppelin’s zygote.”
Stabin, an illustrator with a long career whose work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Newsweek, and Rolling Stone, has designed nine U.S. postage stamps. His work has been displayed in the National Portrait Gallery. In creating ABC illustrations for his young daughters, the author kept finding “fascinating words” in the dictionary that he “couldn’t wait to illustrate.” In 26 alliterative phrases from A to Z, this debut book explains uncommon vocabulary with dictionary definitions and pronunciations, example sentences, and loopy, surreal drawings. These are mostly in black and white, but some include pops of color as well as photographed images. Under K, for example, the capital letter seems to be composed of some alien tubas, feather dusters, and a stepladder (readers can concoct their own interpretations as part of the fun). The phrase for K is “kaonic karakul”; “kaonic” involves certain subatomic particles, and a “karakul” is a kind of sheep. The main illustration depicts spheres and orbital paths, among which some sheep are jumping; one is bubbly, as if covered with atomic particles. The accompanying sentence reads “Kaonic karakuls are the subatomic sheep that physicists count to go to sleep.” As this example shows, the vocabulary can be challenging even for adults, yet the book’s witty playfulness invites readers in, as do the dynamic, spiky/swooping lines of the artwork. Some pages fold out for larger display, giving the book a generous feel. Kids will enjoy finding the acorns on every page except for F (because “fig fauns only like figs,” naturally). There are a few missteps; for example, “nucivorous” means nut-eating, not nut-bearing; and why not include a note about Daedalus under the entry for “daedal,” especially because Daedalus is mentioned in passing later under “minotaur”? The book’s second edition includes a FAQ, curriculum guidance for the classroom, and examples of student work.
Trippy, creative, and thoughtful, this vocabulary book should awaken imaginations.