Whether you pronounce it "alpha-zed" or "al-phazed," this book will have you laughing as you appreciate the many layers of this alphabet pile-up of a story. In the time before anything begins, a very fat, pink and green, thorny Angry A enters a room. A Bashful B follows, excusing himself, while A states in a hand-lettered cartoon balloon, "What are you doing here?" Soon, a Confused C, a stolid and red blocky Dynamic D (who always utters "Ta-Da!"), a swirly Elegant E, and a paisleyed Flamboyant F have joined the group with other letters following. As the room fills with letters, each one in character adds his two cents, so that the room also fills with variously shaped, hand-lettered conversation balloons that overlap excitedly and fill the page. Off at the edge, a blue Bashful B opines about relationships between the letters, asks why we are here, and who these strange characters are? Finally, when the whole crowd of 26 letters is assembled, the light goes out, darkness fills the room, and a voice says: "Let there be light." Light returns, and there in the middle of the visual alphabetic mess, stand W, O, R and D, playing their important part. "In the beginning there was the WORD" states the text, sonorously. What makes this so much fun, is that each letter is based on real typography: B is Boldoni, J is Jim Crow, O is Ornate Wood, and so forth. It makes readers want to examine other books to see if they can identify the type face as a helpful key is appended. A short "Who's Who in the Cast" continues the humor with references to Broadway and Hollywood, the current scene, and puns: "Bashful B was last seen in Tub, where he played the double role of the baby." The older reader willappreciate the total package that Glaser (who designed the "I Love New York" heart logo) and his wife have created. 2003, Miramax/Hyperion, Ages 5 to 9.
Susan Hepler, Ph.D.
K-Gr 3-One by one, the letters of the alphabet enter a "big empty yellow room." From "Angry A" to "Zigzag Z," each one is described by an alliterative adjective. Eventually, the space is stuffed with a haphazard horde of loudmouthed letters, and dialogue balloons show their obnoxious comments. Finally, "The noise was terrible. Everyone was screaming at the top of their lungs. Nobody cared about anyone else. They were pushing and shoving and hitting and kicking. It was a disaster." (The grammar here is a definite disaster.) Then the lone light bulb goes out and a vague voice says, "Let there be light." By the time it is restored, four letters have joined together, and the pretentious text reads, "In the beginning there was the WORD." After this faux finale, Glaser offers a cloying cast list with exasperating entries such as "Yelling Y was last year's youngest Grammy winner for his yodeling version of `Yesterday.' This Yankee from Yonkers is a graduate of Yale." Underneath, another alphabet introduces a variety of typefaces. This befuddling book is more appropriate for graphics-obsessed grown-ups than for children. Bill Martin, Jr.'s Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (S & S, 1989) offers more bang for the buck.-Bina Williams, Bridgeport Public Library, CT Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
In a symbolic episode that's more style than substance, the alphabet's contentious letters congregate in a small room until four get together to form the first W-O-R-D, and give the rest the idea that "It wasn't simply about expressing themselves or showing off. They could be a part of something bigger...." Iconic designer Glaser draws each oversized letter from a different family of typefaces, Aurora to Zapf Medium Italic; along with the heavily ladled Lesson, his wife supplies each with a distinct personality, revealed in dialogue balloons and a Playbill-style cast list: "Confused C received a Drama Desk Award for his part in Cactus Circus." Like Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich's Bembo's Zoo (2000), this aims over children's heads, more toward students of design. (Picture book. Adult)