Alphabet-book format can prove unaccommodating for informational booing still, it's sometimes used to surprisingly good effect, as it is here. Wells offers a brood sampling of features of Japanese culture that happen to be initialed by Western letters--aikido (from the martial arts); chanoyu (the tea ceremony); daruma dolls, Zen's appealing aid to goal-setting; Hiroshima (and its Peace Park); origami; and even such contemporary items as wokuman (Walkman)--all chosen to interest young readers as well as to exemplify Japanese society. A brief anecdotal paragraph explains each; the word written in Japanese characters and an elegantly designed illustration complete the page. There's no ""X,"" a sensible solution to an often vexing problem, but other letters are missing, too: ""L,"" ""Q,"" ""V."" (Also, though what would be the front of the book reads, ""This book begins on the other side,"" and it progresses in the reverse of the usual order, the title page is in the ""normal"" position--or after ""Z,"" depending on how you look at it.) Still, nice.