The Disappearing Alphabet [NOOK Book]


Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Richard Wilbur turns his sharp eye to the noble alphabet and imagines what life would be like without these twenty-six little--but powerful--letters. Packed with humor and witty subtleties, the verse in this captivating picture book is splendidly matched by Caldecott Medal winner David Diaz's hilariously clever illustrations.

A collection of twenty-six short poems ...

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The Disappearing Alphabet

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Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Richard Wilbur turns his sharp eye to the noble alphabet and imagines what life would be like without these twenty-six little--but powerful--letters. Packed with humor and witty subtleties, the verse in this captivating picture book is splendidly matched by Caldecott Medal winner David Diaz's hilariously clever illustrations.

A collection of twenty-six short poems pondering what the world would be like if any letters of the alphabet should disappear.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
If the alphabet started to disappear, as the premise of this inventively witty book sets up, then the world as we know it would, too. Wilbur Opposites, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, starts at the beginning and imagines what life would be like without each of the 26 letters: "If [B] were absent, say, from BAT and BALL,/ There'd be no big or little leagues AT ALL." In addition to pondering words without particular letters, Wilbur playfully points out the symbols' other important functions e.g., in music, "If there were no such thing as C,/ Whole symphonies would be off key"; or in reference to the roman numeral M in mathematics, "If M should vanish, we would lose, my dears,/ MINCE PIE, MARSHMALLOWS, and a thousand years". Diaz Smoky Night, in a clever quip, employs cut-outs as his medium; the rainbow-hued silhouettes set against a white background serve to either amplify or clarify the text. For the destruction of the letter Q, for example as a result of which "Millions of U's would then be unemployed", Diaz pictures a wrecking ball aimed at a giant Q while the ground is littered with discarded Us. And, in W, for a more obscure reference to the watermelon shape in Cassiopeia, Diaz enlightens readers with a picture of the constellation. With plenty of brain-tickling words to grow on and a plethora of visual puns, watch this one vanish from the family bookshelf.
Children's Literature - Carolyn Dennette Michaels
Have you ever thought about what would happen if the alphabet began to disappear? A poet laureate and a Caldecott Medal-winner combine their talents for this imaginative show and tell picture book. For example: "Were there no V, would geese still fly in V-FORMATION in the sky? Calling it something else instead. Like angle, wedge or arrowhead"? Though probably beyond the younger in-lap set, the book's premise seems shareable with all imaginative folk who comprehend basic phonics.
David Sacks
The overall result is charming....this seems just the book to help open 5- to 7-year-olds' eyes to the possibilities of language. -- The New York Times Book Review
Horn Book
The celebrated poet and author of Opposites andMore Opposites plays once again with words, here surmising in 26 poems what might befall us should we lose the alphabet. "What if there were no letter A? / Cows would eat HY instead of HAY. / What's HY? It's an unheard-of diet, / And cows are happy not to try it." Of course, we'd lose more than words, as the introductory poem states: "And since it is by words that we construe / The world, the world would start to vanish, too!" Similarly, readers will laugh at the nonsensical wordplay while catching a glimpse of the formative-and transformative-power of language. The tone of mild astonishment suits the subject matter, as Wilbur's poems are filled with small, satisfying surprises. A small slip in one poem, which ponders what we'd call the elephant without the letter E, includes the impossible possibility, "Hey, you!" David Diaz's slick computer-generated art is bold and appropriately playful. Each letter hides in the background, sliding toward or off the edge of the page. Black silhouettes, contrasted sharply with glowing colors, are shadowy figures ready to slip away into the night along with the alphabet. Other illustrations contain opposites of the silhouettes-cutout-like figures in jewel tones against white backgrounds. One can't help wondering how Wilbur's own simple drawings might have more accurately-and with less spectacle-captured the poems' droll humor and allowed readers more room for their own imaginings.
Kirkus Reviews
The joining of the talents of the incandescent Diaz and the wry, venerable Wilbur has produced an enchanting picture book. "If the alphabet began to disappear,/Some words would soon look raggedy and queer" is the premise, and so Wilbur muses, one short verse for every letter, on what might happen if it faded away. The possibilities are droll, and his thoughts puckish, e.g., if the letter B, "were absent, say, from BAT and BALL,/There'd be not big or little leagues AT ALL," and "At breakfast time, the useful letter T/Preserves us all from eating SHREDDED WHEA." Diaz's computer-generated illustrations are a glorious foil for the poems; in glowing stained-glass hues and candy colors, he makes silhouettes and cut-outs, curlicues and patterns reminiscent of everything from ColorForms to Mexican papercuts. The figures are imagined strongly and with humor; for W, a werewolf and watermelon share the stage, while a Roman legionnaire appears with Wilbur's mince pie and marshmallows for the letter (and Roman numeral) M. It's a sly, and beautiful, upending of the world of letters.
From the Publisher
star “Delightful...A winner that belongs in every library.”—School Library Journal (starred review)
star “Inventively witty.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“In this book, wordplay is more fun than swordplay.”—Time Magazine
“This original and delightful new alphabet book should appeal not only to children but to everyone who loves words.”—Alison Lurie
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547538778
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/1/1998
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 1,325,327
  • File size: 7 MB

Meet the Author

RICHARD WILBUR, one of America’s most beloved poets, has served as poet

David Diaz has illustrated numerous award-winning books for children, including Smoky Night by Eve Bunting, for which he was awarded the Caldecott Medal; The Wanderer by Sharon Creech, which received a Newbery Honor; and Diego: Bigger Than Life by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, a Pura Belpré Honor Award winner. An illustrator and graphic designer for more than twenty-five years, he is also a painter and an accomplished ceramic artist. Mr. Diaz lives in Carlsbad, California.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 9, 2012


    The author's clever use of words...and yes, disappearing letters of the alphabet...renders this a humorous, and thought-provoking text. The illustrations enhance the thoughts, making this a truly delightful reading experience.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2001

    Without F . . . I would be aith

    What would you do if the first letter of your name would disappear? Richard Wilbur gives a comical way to view the disappearance of the alphabet. He makes his readers think about the importance of the alphabet. 'What if there were no letter A? Cows would eat HY instead of HAY' This would be an excellent book to read to elementary students. After reading this book, they could think of what other words would be or sound like with a letter missing. The illustrations by David Diaz are unique to say the least. He uses vibrant colors and illustraions to stress the importance of what Wilbur is trying to convey. This book made me think about the alphabet in a different way. It will do the same for young readers.

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