The Alphabet Keeper

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Overview

The Alphabet Keeper keeps all the letters caged in the dark. But one day they escape while she's cleaning their cage–and then there is no stopping them! The clever letters are on the loose, rearranging themselves at every turn. With a few quick moves, the Alphabet Keeper's...
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Overview

The Alphabet Keeper keeps all the letters caged in the dark. But one day they escape while she's cleaning their cage–and then there is no stopping them! The clever letters are on the loose, rearranging themselves at every turn. With a few quick moves, the Alphabet Keeper's hat becomes a cat. A bus turns into a bush. A rock changes into a rocket. And the flyaway alphabet is on its way to a final farewell!


Author Biography: Mary Murphy is the author and illustrator of several picture books. This is her first picture book for Knopf.


The Alphabet Keeper keeps all the letters caged in the dark, but one day they escape and use clever word play to outwit the keeper.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Murphy's (How Kind!) laugh-out-loud, alphabetic flight of fancy recalls Michael Chesworth's recent witty Alphaboat. Here anthropomorphic letters use clever wordplay to outsmart a stern zookeeper-like caretaker (donned in drab overcoat, pumps and flowered hat) who keeps the unruly 26 in a cage. The letters' escape leads to a hilarious, book-long chase scene. " `I'll get you!' shouts the Alphabet Keeper, fixing her hat. But c pushes h away... and turns her hat into a cat, and the Alphabet Keeper can't see" (thanks to the grinning feline dangling over her eyes). "Then h jumps back and turns the cat into a chat.... `Awful weather' `Indeed' `Well, well,' " the keeper blathers, much to her chagrin. Murphy defines her comical conspiring subjects in a thick, wavy black line, filled in with flat swaths of aqua, periwinkle and sage green; small indentations indicate mouths and blue circles serve as eyeballs. Her light, cartoonish touch accentuates the slapstick, as when the Keeper's shout of "stop!" changes to pots that land-where else-on her own head. Beginning readers will laugh heartily and may well pick up a few key phonics lessons along the way. Ages 4-8. (Mar.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
One day when the Keeper cleans their cage, the letters she has been holding in the dark escape through an open window. She chases after them, but they are very tricky. In the park, the p turns upside-down to become "bark," then turns backward so the Keeper can't see it in the "dark." On page after page of pursuit, the letters keep up the game of meaning-change: a "bus" turns into a "bush," her "plan" into a "plant," into an "ant." We never learn who the strange Keeper is, or why she caged the letters, but the changing game can amuse readers while inspiring some to make rearrangements of their own. In the end, they fly off to the moon, leaving the Keeper behind. With so many letters dashing here and there, and most of the events depicted in vignettes, the pages tend to appear fragmented. But part of the fun is making the new combinations and watching the resulting chaos. Dark black outline and simplified shapes in flat colors keep the emphasis on the action. 2002, A Borzoi Book/Alfred A. Knopf,
— Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 1-3-The Alphabet Keeper imprisons all her letters in a cage, but when she opens the door to clean, a gust of wind sweeps them out the window to freedom. The woman chases after them, but when she tries to capture them, they rearrange themselves, change the venue, and become something else. For example, when the Alphabet Keeper sneaks up on the letters in the park, "p turns upside down and the park turns into bark!" Her plan to track them down in a boat is foiled when she steps onto the deck only to find that "u swaps with e- and the deck turns into a duck." The Alphabet Lady is depicted with mean, shifty eyes; black hair drawn up in a bun; and a gray-green hat and coat. Her room is a dark, purple oval. In contrast, the liberated letters, all lowercase, are adorned with smiles and float playfully across the pages. Children will need a fairly firm handle on phonics to fully appreciate this manipulation of letters to create new words. Nevertheless, this story may be a good springboard for some wordplay and youngsters will enjoy building even more words as they go along.-Marianne Saccardi, Norwalk Community College, CT Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A dark-haired lady in a shapeless overcoat keeps the letters of the alphabet caged until they escape into a witty and inventive story. When the Alphabet Keeper cleans the cage that imprisons the letters, out they fly, escaping through the window on the breeze. She chases them, but they elude capture-when she goes after them in a bus, the h flies down and turns the bus into a bush. When she evolves a plan, the t turns her plan into a plant. When the letters "Shout loud!" the c turns loud into a cloud, where they hide. Letters added, subtracted, and reversed contribute to the wordplay that will delight children particularly as they master the trick, for example, of reading "rats" backwards so that it is "star." In the end, the Alphabet Keeper loses them all, as they change "moo" into "moon" adding "et" to the rock she threw at them, and the rocket carries them to the moon. The illustrations use heavy black line and a few basic colors to create strong, simple, but energetic shapes. Each letter (they are all lower case) has an eye and a mouth, giving them a bit of personality while retaining their essence of letter form. A bright bit of imagination worthy of the old television show The Electric Company. (Picture book. 3-7)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375823473
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 3/11/2003
  • Series: The Flyaway Alphabet Ser.
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.60 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Murphy

Mary Murphy is the author and illustrator of a number of children’s books, including HOW KIND!. I KISSED THE BABY!, she says, "is about how excited everyone is to welcome a new baby into the community. It’s best read, like a nursery rhyme, by whomever is holding Baby at the time." She lives in Galway, Ireland.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great for new readers

    This was a fun book we borrowed from the library this week. It a good book for the early grades. I thought it was just going to be an alphabet book when I borrowed it, but it is something more. The alphabet keeper accieentally lets her letters out of their dark cage and then tries to catch them again. Each time she is close to catching htme they change a letter in the word of what she is using or what they are in and then she is foiled. A boat deck becomes a duck, a bus becomes a bush, loud letters become a cloud and a rock becomes a rocket. It is fun for readers who are in the early grades because they can figure out how to the letter swapping, adding or subtracting makes one thing another.

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