The Absolutely Awful Alphabet

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The alphabet never looked this way before. These letters have drippy noses, scratchy hair, and green teeth. They belch and drool, and stick out their tongues. Zany art gives each letter a spectacular new personality, and the humorous, alliterative text is sure to stretch young readers’ vocabularies.

An alliterative alphabet book presents mean and monstrous letters, from A an awfully arrogant ...

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The alphabet never looked this way before. These letters have drippy noses, scratchy hair, and green teeth. They belch and drool, and stick out their tongues. Zany art gives each letter a spectacular new personality, and the humorous, alliterative text is sure to stretch young readers’ vocabularies.

An alliterative alphabet book presents mean and monstrous letters, from A an awfully arrogant amphibian to Z a zig-zagging zoological zany.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Gerstein's language is marvelous.”—School Library Journal
“A broad stroke of humor that will appeal to children's love of the absurd.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Kids who enjoy the seething sounds of the words and the ghastly, gorgeous pictures of the dreadfully dangerous, drooling demons will want to join in with their own ferocious alphabet play.”—Booklist
Publishers Weekly
"With each letter more hideous and mean than the last, this alphabet will supply kids with an abundance of insults. Gerstein panders to the baser impulses with gleeful good cheer. The bright oil portraits of the vile characters may well fire young imaginations," wrote PW. Ages 3-7. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
Some letters just seem to cry out for something to represent them besides the ubiquitous Apple, Ball, Cat, Dog, Elephant. "A" is not only Awful, to Mordecai Gerstein, but it's an Amphibian! and it is Annoyed. And each of the letters' sentences stretch a child's imagination. It is fun, thoughtful, and not your usual alphabet book. In terms of vocabulary, it's not for the youngest unless they love the sound of words-but most young children do. Words like Carnivore, Drooling, and Exterminate won't appear in spelling lists, but that could be a good thing for bright, bored children. Read it first, just in case you feel you might be bothered by Demons, Fiends, a Ghastly "G," or a Loony or Monstrosity. "V," of course, is a Vegetable Vampire.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-An alliterative abecedarian featuring some fairly ferocious fiends. Each letter, illustrated in oil with pen and ink, occupies a full page and poses some sort of threat to the following letter. While some of the characters are merely goofy, like L, "a lanky, lazy Loony in love...", others are more frightening, such as C, "a cruel, cantankerous Carnivore craving to consume...." Gerstein's language is marvelous and can be best appreciated when read aloud. Only a few letters fall a bit flat; Y is a "yucky young Yokel." The advanced vocabulary and the nature of the illustrations make this title more suited to older children, who will be better able to appreciate Gerstein's inspired silliness and exuberant monsters, than as a book to help younger children learn the alphabet.-Robin L. Gibson, Muskingum County Library System, Zanesville, OH Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Fiends and ghouls abound in a tongue-in-cheek take on standard alphabet-book fare. With "dreadfully dangerous, drooling Demons" and "malicious mealy-mouthed Monstrosities" this is not for the faint at heart. Gerstein reveals a diabolical skill at turning out alliterative phrases full of fiendish references for every letter in the alphabet. Every page contains the featured letter with several lines of text beneath; the letters form when gleefully gruesome creatures contort themselves into the appropriate shape. One monstrous vignette is linked to the next, creating a fantastical tale that encompasses the entire alphabet. Yet lurking behind each outrageous concoction of words is a broad stroke of humor that will appeal to children's love of the absurd. Neon colors serve as a backdrop for the mutant letters in this irreverent book, aimed at those who delight in the preposterous. (Picture book. 4-8) .
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780152163433
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/28/2001
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 3 - 7 Years
  • Lexile: IG690L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.58 (w) x 9.96 (h) x 0.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Mordicai Gerstein

MORDECAI GERSTEIN studied art at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles and has designed and directed animated films. He is the author-illustrator of many books for children, including Stop Those Pants! Mr. Gerstein lives in western Massachusetts.


Mordicai Gerstein has always been an artist. As a child, he enjoyed painting and eventually graduated from art school in Los Angeles. He continued painting in New York City and supported himself and his family for 25 years by designing and directing animated television commercials. He says, "I had always loved cartoons, especially Bugs Bunny, and I found I enjoyed making animated films. Even a 30-second commercial involved drawing and painting, storytelling, not to mention actors, music, and sound effects."

During the 1960s, Gerstein made several films that received critical acclaim. In 1966, The Room won the Award of the Film Clubs of France at the International Festival for Experimental Film, and in 1968, The Magic Ring won a CINE Golden Eagle.

His career took a dramatic turn when he met children's author Elizabeth Levy in 1970. He has illustrated her Something Queer Is Going On chapter books ever since, and it was Levy and her editor who encouraged Gerstein to write a book on his own. His debut came in 1983 with Arnold of the Ducks, the story of a young boy who gets lost in the wild and is raised by ducks. The New York Times hailed Gerstein's freshman effort as one of the year's best children's books, and he went on to write two more volumes exploring the theme of feral childhood. In 1998 he released The Wild Boy, a picture book based on the true story of a young 18th-century French boy who was found living in the woods and was put on display as an oddity, only to escape and be captured again years later. That same year, Gerstein released Victor, a young adult novel about the same boy.

Gerstein tells the story is of a Tibetan woodcutter who is given a choice between reincarnation or heaven in The Mountains of Tibet, which received the distinction of being one of 1987's ten best illustrated books of the year, according to The New York Times. Although the book is written for kids around age seven, Gerstein approaches the subject of death with a bold, sensitive plot and elegant illustrations. Spirituality is a major theme in many of Gerstein's books. He has interpreted tales from the Bible in Jonah and the Two Great Fish (1997), Noah and the Great Flood (1999), and Queen Esther the Morning Star (2001). Other titles such as The Seal Mother (1986), The Story of May (1993), and The Shadow of a Flying Bird (1994) also express Gerstein's reverential awe for the world.

Young readers can also stretch their imaginations with Gerstein's more playful books. Vocabulary is fun in The Absolutely Awful Alphabet (1999), where the letter P is actually a particularly putrid predator! Bedtime Everybody! (1996) has a young girl's stuffed animals planning a bedtime picnic. Behind the Couch (1996) takes readers on an exciting caper into an unknown world of grazing dust balls, Lost Coin Hill and the Valley of the Stuffed Animals. In Stop Those Pants (1998), a boy is forced to play hide-and-seek with his clothes as he gets ready for the day. Gerstein pays tribute to American composer Charles Ives in What Charlie Heard (2002), the story of a boy's unique talent for interpreting all the sounds of daily life.

Another biographical picture book, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers (2003) tells the story of Philippe Petit, the daredevil who walked across a tightrope suspended between New York City's World Trade Center towers in 1974. The book won the Caldecott Medal in 2004, and parents have praised the book as an invaluable tool for talking to their children about the events of 9/11.

Many of Gerstein's children's books are destined to be classics. His style of writing and illustration brings each of his stories to life, shows a passion for adventure, and relishes the joy that comes from understanding the mysteries of the world.

Good To Know

Despite a successful career illustrating children's books, the first book Gerstein wrote, Arnold of the Ducks, was turned down by seven publishers. Eventually, The New York Times called it one of the best children's books of the year.

Gerstein was inspired to write The Mountains of Tibet after reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

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    1. Hometown:
      Northhampton, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 25, 1935
    2. Place of Birth:
      Los Angeles, California
    1. Education:
      Chouinard Institute of Art
    2. Website:

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2005

    ttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttterr ific!

    It is an alphabet book about funny and weird things. It is about an awful alphabet. All the words start with the letter on the page. I like this book becasue I like the look of the illustrations. Most of the letters have sharp teeth. I like that all the letters look like creatures or people.

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