Thursday, January 22, 2015
Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for all the Letters gets 4.5 stars
I am a big fan of Oliver Jeffers. I think he is fabulously funny and a great writer and illustrator. How to Catch a Star and Stuck are some of our favorite books that he wrote and illustrated. He also illustrated The Day the Crayons Quit which is a popular book as of late.
Anytime I see a book by Jeffers (the same rule applies to my favorite authors) I have to check it out, and since Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for all the Letters just came out last year I requested it from the library.
I give Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for all the Letters 4.5 out of 5 stars, but the reasoning may not be what you expect. I really liked the book, thought it was funny, loved Jeffers creativity and word choice, and enjoyed how he connected (some obviously and others more subtle) the short stories of several letters.
It really is a great book, and one boys in the 5th -7th grade will absolutely love. They'll love the humor, content, and the layout of the book. A 5th-8th grade teacher could easily use this book for a great vocabulary and word choice (alliterations, etc.) lesson and as a writing prompt. Each kid could write a story about a letter, or you could have the kids great a book throughout the school year with a story about each letter.
Older elementary and middle school students will thoroughly enjoy the off color stories and references (though it still is a clean book, just with inferred violence).
The half star that prevents this book from being a solid 5 star book is for the content (words and pictures) and who they are stated to be written for. The publisher states that this book has the age range of 3-5 years and Preschool through Kindergartners. However, that is completely wrong, and in no way is the book appropriate, b/c of it's content and vocabulary (enigma, ingenious, incognito), for kids that young.
Personally, I think this book is great for upper elementary and middle school students. I would probably say 4th grade and up, but a mature high reading 3rd grader would be fine as well. However, murder and violence is inferred just for you concerned and involved parents..
The writing style and humor reminds me a lot of Jon Scieszka's Squids will be Squids book with modern day fables which I love and have used with lots of lessons. Though Once Upon an Alphabet's higher vocabulary and content is better for a bit older audience.
Amazon had the following book review:
"Jeffers's empathic nature, evident from his sympathetic renderings of Drew Daywalt's beleaguered crayons in The Day the Crayons Quit (Philomel, 2013), here extends to the hardworking letters. This eccentric and entertaining anthology is introduced by an eloquent syllogism about the relationship of letters, words, and stories. While each four-page tale showcases a (seemingly) hand-drawn capital and lowercase letter, and many of the words—and unnamed objects—begin with the corresponding letter, this is not your mother's abecedarium. It is a framework for Jeffers's intriguing worldview, combining ludicrous juxtapositions and situations and a great capacity for gentleness. Some passages are scientific: "Mary is made of matter….she got sucked through a microscope and became the size of a molecule." The facing page shows Mary floating under the lens. The blackboard-style background is filled with "molecular" diagrams (mattresses, a moose, mums). Other sections are a mite macabre: "Jack Stack the Lumberjack has been struck by lightning one hundred and eleven times…." The lightning illuminates a skeleton, but after the page turn, the man appears in his jammies, normal, except that he can provide his own electricity. There is humor in the alliteration and mixed-media scenes: a puzzled parsnip, Victor the vanquished "plotting his vengeance," and an enigma featuring elephants and envelopes. The author respects his readers' intelligence, inserting expansive vocabulary, cameos from characters in previous books, people and plot threads that cross stories, and quiet details to discover in subsequent readings. An altogether stimulating, surprising, and satisfying reading experience."
Once Upon an Alphabet is a great and hilarious book, but just beware that not all alphabet books are geared towards young kids/students.
Happy short story alphabet book reading!