The War Between the Vowels and the Consonants

The War Between the Vowels and the Consonants

5.0 3
by Turner, Whitney Turner

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This full-color picture book, great for reading aloud, tells the tale of how two types of mutually distrustful social groups of letters got together to form words.


This full-color picture book, great for reading aloud, tells the tale of how two types of mutually distrustful social groups of letters got together to form words.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In the turn-of-the-century world pictured in this clever "history," upper-case Vowels don't let their lower-case kids play with little Consonants, and "Consonants [prefer] their own sounds: PRGHT! or SSSSP! Good, strong, snapping noises." Petty skirmishes escalate into a civil war: Vowels strategize ("We'll hit them with our screeching sounds"), Consonants attack an EIEIO formation ("Let those barnyard sounds try to stop the snarling GRRR's") and Y's become "a house divided." The Turners, a sister-and-brother team, trump standard alphabet books with this singular story, which concludes as the battling letters finally unite to fight a greater foe: a giant, illegible scribble. Priscilla Turner's inventive wordplay is an exercise in pronunciation, as when the Consonants send in "the freezing BR's." Whitney Turner's expressive Vowels and Consonants posture with stick arms and legs and the merest hints of facial features. They do battle in single-engine planes shaped like T's and E's, and at the happy ending, dancing pairs spell out "WE" and "US." What a bunch of characters! Ages 4-8. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
According to Priscilla Turner, the rivalry between Vowels and Consonants has been going on forever. "Capital P's (which is what lower-case p's grow up to be) warns their children, "Never trust a Vowel! The long and the short of it is, they are sly, cunning, two-faced creatures." And the Vowels, again according to Turner, "tended to be smug and stuck up. After all there were fewer of them. Surely that made them better than most consonants." The banter turns to mocking each other's sounds, which finally turns into physical violence. The violence escalates at an alarming rate until a Scrawl strolls into town and almost conquers the divided letters. Desperation forces the consonants and vowels to unite into words like "scat" and "ciao", and finally a sentence, "go away you silly nonsense". The Scrawl whimpers, "I can't fight that. Next they'll make paragraphs...pages...and chapters..." and the Scrawl scrams while letters lined up along the street watch. Incidentally, the stores along the street bear names like, Babel's Barbershop and Verbal Variety. What a concept, teaching the value of letters, the meaning of metaphor, and the workings of war and peace, all in a story that shifts from humor to drama with the turn of a page! The word play of the story might require a parent's explanation-or better yet, an older listener to giggle.
Children's Literature - Martha Cunningham
This book tells a story of inimical vowels and consonants who stage a series of escalating attacks on each other but who realize in the end that the ensuing "noise" ought to be banished, which they do with words constructed by, naturally, vowels AND consonants working together. The author and illustrator use clever historical references and witty turns of phrase and the result is a curious book that is difficult to classify. Its subject matter is droll and might appeal to a sophisticated second-grade or third-grade child. Such humor and language would require an advanced child to be appreciated; it might appeal in a parent-child reading session but is too esoteric to be used in a whole-class setting. The level of vocabulary, moreover, is not as pedagogically rewarding as, for example, William Steig; and the images of war are those that might give today's parents and teachers pause. It would not be a likely purchase for a school and likely only as a rare purchase by a parent. 1999 (orig.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4Narrated in a pseudo-serious tone, this is the fable of vowels and consonants who do not get along. There is terrible bickering and constant rivalry between them. Finally, war is declared and a conflagration occurs complete with dive-bombing T's, marching D's, spear-tossing J's, and paratrooper U's. Amid the fighting, a scrawling, formless chaos appears. Individually, the letters cannot halt the scratching threat of disaster, but when they cooperate and form actual words, the jumbled scrawl at last rolls out of town. This is a stilted attempt to teach about vowels and consonants through adult humor. Shaping actual letters into characters with spindly arms and legs and headless faces is too cute, and the story line falls flat. The colorful, busy watercolor illustrations do little to pick up the story. There is a condescending tone that children will see through, and they'll find little to enjoy in this obvious grammar lesson. This book is too clever for words, and an unnecessary offering.Beth Tegart, Oneida City Schools, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Only occasional flashes of cleverness illuminate this parable of warring camps uniting in the face of a common threat. The uneasy truce between the aristocratic vowels and the plebian consonants finally breaks down into open warfare, but at the advent of a giant scribble (oxymoronically described as "zigs and zags with no form at all"), they join together to "STOP" the monster and bid it "GO AWAY." " `I can't fight that,' whimpered the jumble. `Next they'll make paragraphs . . . pages . . . chapters. . . ' " Sprouting stick limbs and large hats, the letters, uppercase if adult, lowercase when young, swarm antlike across cleanly drawn backdrops. "Just think what we can accomplish together," enthuses the Supreme Command to the Commander in Chief. "The poems! The plays! Our memoirs!"

Actually, even careless readers will notice that both sides have been using each other right along in speech, an evidently unintended paradox. Next to books like Eve Merriam's Fighting Words (1992) or Bill Martin and John Archambault's Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (1989), the language play here seems clumsy.

From the Publisher

“This artful fable tells of a time when letters coexisted as two mutually distrustful social groups...Children learning to read and write will enjoy the drama and humor evident in both the words and illustrations...A high-spirited picture book recommended for reading aloud.” —Booklist

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st ed
Product dimensions:
8.96(w) x 11.28(h) x 0.36(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Priscilla Turner lives in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, with her husband and two children.

A teacher and illustrator, Whitney Turner is Priscilla's younger brother and lives in Riverdale, New York.

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War Between the Vowels and the Consonants 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading some of the reviews by the adult librarians and critics, one would be led to believe that this book is not worth purchasing. On the contrary - I first purchased this book when my son was just learning how to put letters together into words. I put aside concerns about 'politically correct' material (as one critic pointed out, the war theme may give some parents pause. Hardly - it's on the news and in the papers constantly) and focused on the message - it's simple, it's clear, and my son got it right away even though he was only in preschool! The humor is not too far above a kindergartener or a first-grader at all. In fact, the kids we've read it to love the way the letters form characters and objects! The final message of working together is clearly understood by the younger set. I suggest that if you are interested, preview the book with the eyes of a child, not an adult, and I'm sure you'll find it funny and enjoyable.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You will love this book. It was terribly great!! You will think this a great, great book! I know you will think this book is a great, great book!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a special education teacher I'm always looking for books that will inspire my kids to read and write. This book has great wit for the adults (I'm still finding amusing things in the pictures and text) as well as an interesting story for school aged children. I've used it for kids ages 5-12, and even though it's written on a second grade level, it can be used to teach a multitude of lessons, and is a great springboard for new writing lessons! Don't miss this book!