123 versus ABC by Mike Boldt
The letters and numbers just can’t agree in this book! Is it a counting book or an alphabet book? You will just have to read on to figure it out. As the pages turn, it just gets more confusing. Sure the first animal to appear is an Alligator, but there is just One. Then there are Two Bears, Three Cars, and on and on it goes. The book is narrated by the number one and the letter A, both of them arguing over what the book is really about. Happily, they are both right in this mash up of an alphabet and counting book that is funny, silly and a romp of a read.
Boldt manages to make a counting and alphabet book that has a real freshness to it. A large part of the success is in the humor, much of which is contributed by the two main characters, A and 1. There little rivalry and clever asides add to the tension of the premise but also resolve in the end to something much more friendly.
Boldt’s art is bright colored and pays homage to vintage picture books. The two main characters have a cartoon-like appeal to them with their broad expressions and Mickey Mouse gloves. Boldt makes good use of white space throughout the book, allowing the mix of alphabet and numbers space to breathe on the page, something that becomes particularly important as the pages get more crowded.
Fresh and funny, this is one clever mash-up of ABCs and 123s that will appeal to every child who likes a lot of laughs. It will work well with preschoolers who will enjoy the jokes as they review the content. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.
Everything Goes in the Air by Brian Biggs
Brian Biggs has several new books out which is great news for youngsters who love cars, trucks and airplanes. Everything Goes in the Air takes Henry and his family on an airplane ride. Readers get to visit a bustling airport, where they can search for lost babies. From vintage airplanes to modern ones, we learn about the different parts of a place and the various types they come in. Modern airport security is explained, then the book turns to helicopters and hot air balloons. Just before takeoff, children get to see inside the cockpit and marvel at the crowded airspace. Then it’s up, up and away!
Biggs’ crowded pages show the hustle and hurry of an airport. His friendly art and seek-and-find activities will keep children busy exploring the pages. Information is given in small bits, mostly through conversations that are shown in cartoon bubbles. This is a marvelously fun and exciting way to explore airplanes and airports.
A great pick for a plane ride, or to help prepare children for an upcoming flight, this book has such detailed illustrations that it is best shared with just one child at a time. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Everything Goes: 123 Beep Beep Beep!: A Counting Book by Brian Biggs
Everything Goes: Stop! Go!: A Book of Opposites by Brian Biggs
These two board books simplify the busy style of Biggs into books that are more appropriate for toddlers. Here the bright colors and cartoon-style illustrations pop. The counting book goes up to ten, each page offering a different sort of vehicle to count. They range from RVs to busses. The opposites book again uses vehicles to show things like dirty and clean, old and new, ending with stop and go.
Very young children who enjoy cars, trucks and other vehicles will love these board books. Expect the basic text to be accompanied with lots of motor sounds from the audience! Appropriate for ages 1-3.
All items reviewed from copies received from Balzer + Bray.
A Is for Musk Ox by Erin Cabatingan, illustrated by Matthew Myers
The story begins right at the cover with Musk Ox chomping on the apple that would have been what “A” stands for. Instead, he insists that A is really for musk ox. Zebra argues with him, after all there isn’t even a single letter A in musk ox. Musk Ox explains using lots of words that start with “A” that musk oxen are Awesome; they live in the Artic and even Alaska. Turn the page and you will see that B is also for musk ox, rather than baby. Again, Musk Ox has plenty of explanations for exactly why. This silliness continues through the book, forming a pattern until you reach the letter M. And I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but I bet you won’t guess what M stands for. This zany book is filled with humor, pure cheer and a jolly spirit.
This is not an alphabet book for those first learning their letters. Instead, children who know how the alphabet works and who are veterans of ABC books will enjoy it most. They will get the jokes that are being poked at more normal alphabet books as well as the more pointed humor of the storyline. Cabatingan’s writing, done entirely in dialogue, is a pleasure to read aloud. It has a natural flow and a great sense of timing.
Myers’ illustrations are simple and quite silly when called for. The personalities of the two characters come across in their body language.
A hilarious alphabet book that is guaranteed to get kids giggling. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Z Is for Moose by Kelly Bingham, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
If you are looking for an alphabet book with more than a bit of nonsense, this is the one for you! I happen to be a huge fan of alphabet books that play around, add humor and have plenty of twists. If you are looking for a straight-forward ABC book, the title alone should be enough to have you looking elsewhere. For those of you as silly as I am, continue on! Zebra is in charge of the ABCs happening in the right order on stage. Unfortunately, Moose doesn’t want to wait his turn. He enters on D, knocking Duck away, messes up Elephant’s entrance too, gets his head in the way for Hat, pops out of the pocket for Kangaroo, and continues to be silly for Lollipop too. But the insult truly comes when they decide to go with M is for… Mouse. Now Moose is upset and rampages through P and Q, drawing scribbles on R and S. Zebra tries to stop him, but ends up messing things up himself until the happy ending at Z.
Bingham’s writing is filled with asides from the different animals. The book is extremely funny, the pacing is brilliant, and the twists are unexpected. There is a great tension built up as the letter M approaches, and then with the twist, it is pure genius.
Zelinsky’s illustrations add to the mad gaiety of the book. Moose is obnoxious but also charming, his emotions clear on his face. The reaction of Moose as M passes him by is delightful, the rampage of destruction is great fun, and his scribbling is clever.
It is clear that this is a book that was pure fun to create, since that is apparent on every page. Impossible to read without laughing and grinning, this is an alphabet book that is sure to delight. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Caveman, A.B.C. Story by Janee Trasler
Take a prehistoric trip through the alphabet in this funny picture book! This book tells the story of a caveman’s adventures solely through pictures and a few alphabetical words. It starts with an acorn that both the caveman and a squirrel are after. They are scared by a bear into a cave where a dinosaur was living. A bit later, the caveman makes friends with an odd little creature who had been trapped in some ice. Unfortunately, the big green dinosaur appears again and chases them around, forcing them to leap onto vines and swing away. But the book can’t end before one final uproarious slapstick moment which leads all the way too the Zzzz at the end.
This story is told only in 26 words, so that means that the illustrations are what really make this book work so well. Filled with a zany cartoon style, the pictures are action-filled and great fun. The huge green dinosaur may pursue the caveman in the book, but readers will notice the rounded teeth and the big smile long before the caveman does.
A fast-paced and funny alphabet book that will do well with young dinosaur fans. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Also reviewed on Jen Robinson’s Book Page.
A Zeal of Zebras: An Alphabet of Collective Nouns by Woop Studios
Follow the alphabet on a journey through the beautiful and evocative collective nouns in our language. You will get to see a galaxy of starfish, an aurora of polar bears, and even an ostentation of peacocks. Each animal then has a paragraph or two of information on them, small details that show the unique qualities of that creature. This is all paired with vibrant illustrations that have the feel of vintage posters and are graphic and wild. This is one alphabet book that is more about the wordplay and the art than the ABCs.
While the paragraphs are well-written and concise, it is really the art that makes this book special. The printed and distressed quality of the images and the way that the posters are replayed on the pages with words make the entire work visually intriguing.
As I finished reading this with both of my sons looking over my shoulder and commenting on the incredible collective nouns, we all agreed that whoever named collective nouns was an artist. The same can be said for this entire book. It was done by real artists. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
Also reviewed by:
E-mergency! by Tom Lichtenheld
The entire alphabet lived together in one house. Every morning they all ran down the stairs to breakfast, but one morning there was an accident. E was running down the stairs too fast and took a tumble. The ambulance arrived and took E off to the ER. With E gone, A took charge and assigned E’s duties to O. In order for E to heal, no one could use that letter. The letters took to the airwaves to ask people not to use the letter E until E recovered. They even went to DC to tell the government. With O filling in for E, things got vory confusing. But E wasn’t gotting any bottor. Who could bo causing tho problom?
This book had me laughing aloud. First was the puns with the different letters, the jokes told in the asides. They are the real treasure of this book and will get young readers laughing too. Then readers have to watch the letter characters too. They tend to spell out appropriate words as the action in the book changes, adding another layer of humor to the book. Add into that the humor of trying to read a book without the letter E, and you have this zany, silly wonderful book.
Lichtenheld’s illustrations are filled with humor and motion as well. They are bright, busy and great fun to look closely at. My favorite spread is the double-page illustration of a busy city street where E is not being used. It results in lots of humor.
This book reads aloud well, but I would not recommend it without reading it first, especially the many pages with O filling in for E. It makes for a tongue-twister, but also one that young listeners will love to see you attempt.
Hilarity, alphabet, and word play, what more could one ask for? Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
An Annoying ABC by Barbara Bottner, illustrations by Michael Emberley
Take a very funny trip through the alphabet in a series of mishaps in this silly picture book. When Adelaide starts the story off by annoying Bailey the chain of events carries all the way through the classroom from A to Z. Children are crying, fuming, howling, and evening stumbling and tumbling before it reaches the end. But then, when everything is done, Adelaide apologizes!
Bottner has created a zany way to do the ABCs filled with plenty of action and nonsense. This is a modern classroom filled with characters that are depicted in detail by Emberley. He manages to imbue each of them with their own sense of personality and style, all 26 of them. It is a book that races along thanks to the pacing of Bottner’s words, but readers who linger on each page will get a better sense of the story itself as told through the illustrations. It’s a pleasant mix of words that are welcoming and fast, and pictures that are worth exploring.
A thrilling ABC, this is one of those books where children act like children and laughter abounds. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Apple Pie ABC by Alison Murray
A small black-and-white dog desperately wants a piece of apple pie in this alphabetical story. It all starts with a girl making A for apple pie and a happily sleeping dog. But as soon as the pie is in the oven with B for bake it, the dog is very interested in the pie. Then the pie must C for cool it and D for dish it out. Though the girl gets to eat some pie, the dog must make due with just a crumb. But after that one delicious crumb, he just can’t stop thinking about eating pie! This cheery picture book mixes the alphabet with an alphabetical storyline more robust than in other books that try this technique. Readers will love the many ways the dog tries to get pie and then the very satisfying and delicious conclusion.
Murray has created a book that really works the alphabet into the story. Even without the alphabet as part of the book, this story and the writing would stand on its own. That’s something that can rarely be said about an alphabet picture book. The writing is kept very simple and solid.
Murray’s illustrations are a treat in this book. They have a natural, old-fashioned quality to them that makes the book warm and inviting. Add the apple pie element, and you have a book that feels like a classic picture book yet still has a modern perspective too.
A delight of a picture book that will satisfy yet leave young readers eager for seconds. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Also reviewed by
If Rocks Could Sing: a Discovered Alphabet by Leslie McGuirk
This is such an intriguing premise for an alphabet book! Each alphabet along with the items that the letter stands for are shown in rocks. The rocks were found along a Florida shore and not changed to look this way. It is a book based on finding treasures others overlook and seeing possibilities. The book has a simple layout, allowing the rocks to be the feature here. It begins with A is for Addition with rocks standing in for 1, 8, = and 9. B is for Bird with a very unique bird-shaped rock posed in a nest. C is for couch potato, because who could ever not use this perfectly potato-like rock! The book is a whimsical tribute to beachcombing.
It is such a simple concept that it has to be done right. While a couple of the rocks do seem more like blobs than the object they are meant to be, others are startlingly close. Look at the T is for Toast page, and you can almost see the whole-wheat grain in the toast slice. The book is a delight just to page through and discover.
It is a book that will have you looking for much more than pretty seashells on your next visit to the beach! Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.
Also reviewed by Journey of a Bookseller.
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