Wonderful things are being invented every day in Al Pha's world-fire, the wheel, even shadows! His big chance to be part of history comes when the King announces that the twenty-six recently invented letters need to be put in order. Al makes a bet with himself that he's the man for the job. Through a series of funny events, he eventually finds the perfect order for the letters, and the king rewards him by naming his creation the "Alphabet."

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Wonderful things are being invented every day in Al Pha's world-fire, the wheel, even shadows! His big chance to be part of history comes when the King announces that the twenty-six recently invented letters need to be put in order. Al makes a bet with himself that he's the man for the job. Through a series of funny events, he eventually finds the perfect order for the letters, and the king rewards him by naming his creation the "Alphabet."

Sure to entertain and engage young readers, this book turns the ABC's inside out. Kids will laugh at the quirky illustrations and clever wordplay, while wondering where the alphabet really did get its order.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Rosenthal's (Duck! Rabbit!) Al Pha is a character from ancient history, a man who "lived back when all sorts of things were being invented. Like fire. The wheel. Shadows." He's a funny-looking guy, too, with a thumblike body and jellified arms. In a private bet with himself, he takes up the king's challenge to arrange the letters of the alphabet in a beautiful order. Durand's (Big Rabbit's Bad Mood) loopy acrylic paintings carry the story through a long, long middle section about how Al comes to arrange each of the letters as he does ("Gee, I really am doing it. G—that can be the next letter!"), populating Al's world with a wacky assortment of proto-trees and flowers, as well as a cast of equally goofy-looking villagers and animals. Pages are well designed and visually lively throughout, the text peppered with spot illustrations. At long last Al's project is done, and—predictably—the king recognizes his effort and names the alphabet after Al and his private wager. Fans of dopey puns everywhere, rejoice! Ages 3–5. (May)
Children's Literature - Sylvia Firth
Al Pha is a man with a mission. He is determined to invent something that will be as important to people as fire and the wheel. The king challenges his subjects to create a way of organizing some newly devised twenty-six letters. Al makes a bet with himself that he will come up with the perfect sequence for the letters. Since his name begins with A, that becomes the first letter. A bee flying by helps Al decide on the second letter. C, D and E rhyme with B, so they come next. Al gets inspiration from friends, neighbors and his surroundings for F through M. At his point, he is a little weary, but he says, "I will keep going. I won't give up. No, no, no" and as a reminder, N and O are letters fourteen and fifteen. Children will delight in how P falls in place while Q, R S, get their order from a bird and a snake. A cup of tea helps Al select T as next letter and U follows because he reminds himself, "You can Do THIS." An inchworm shapes V and W and his snores, waking him from a nap Al determines that Z is to be last. Out of ideas, Al throws the remaining two letters in the air to decide how they will fit. Since X is heavier, it lands first and Y follows. Al's arrangement delights the king so he names it "Al Pha Bet" in his honor. The full color acrylic illustrations depict the characters in cartoon style with huge noses, skinny arms and odd shaped bodies that add greatly to the droll humor of the story. Youngsters (and adults) will delight in this most original way of learning the alphabet as they share this book at home, in class or at story time. Purchase is recommended. Reviewer: Sylvia Firth
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—This unimaginative fantasy about the invention of the alphabet seems to be a clear case of the title having been written before the story. Quotidian and episodic, the tale is mostly filler to cover 26 letters worth of alphabetical organization. "A long time ago," a king of an unnamed country decides that the newly invented letters need to be organized. A man named Al Pha-as one would have already guessed-makes a bet with himself that he can put the letters in some kind of order. He then proceeds to do this, with all 26 decisions inspired by random occurrences happening around him. When a bee flies by, he says, "'Hey, that's it. A. B. Thanks, bee!' " Later Al is hungry and eats an apple. "'Mmmm. Delicious.' All that mmmming led to the next letter." Readers who somehow make it past the awkward title and overhyped premise of Al's unintimidating quest will be bored long before he completes it. Durand's cheerful squat figures, stylized plant life, and inventive forest creatures add some interest, but each busy page is as lacking in a focal point as the meandering story.—Jayne Damron, Farmington Community Library, MI
Kirkus Reviews

Less a traditional abecedary than an original pourquois tale, Rosenthal's latest asks the question, how did the alphabet come to be?

The story purports that letters (along with fire, the wheel and shadows) were already invented when title character, Al Pha, makes a bet with himself that he can devise the best order for them. The king has high hopes that "once the letters are organized, writing will really take off! Books! Poetry! Love letters! Stop signs!" The illogic of this anticipation is mitigated by the humorous tone of the text and Delphine Durand's cartoonish, acrylic illustrations, which then depict Al Pha lugging a sack of letters home to begin to sorting them into an order largely based on associations. "The first one was easy. He chose A, for Al." Later, "Feeling hungry, Al picked an apple. 'Mmmm. Delicious.' All that mmmming led him to the next letter. And that's double perfect, thought Al. M for middle." His task complete a few spreads later, Al Pha presents the ordered letters to the king, who sings them in sequence and then names the arrangement in honor of Alpha and his bet.

A fresh take on a tried-and-true topic.(Picture book. 3-5)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101650257
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 5/12/2011
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: NOOK Kids
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 3 - 5 Years
  • File size: 25 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

Amy Krouse Rosenthal's other books include New York Times bestsellers Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons and Duck! Rabbit! (Time Magazine's #1 Children's Book of 2009). She lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Delphine Durand has illustrated Putnam's Chicken of the Family (which was a CCBC Choice and Bulletin Blue Ribbon). She lives in France.
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