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
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
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.