The Alphabet From A to Y with Bonus Letter Z by Steve Martin and Roz Chast. Book Review.

This unusual alphabet book begins
“Amiable Amy, Alice, and Andie
Ate all the anchovy sandwiches handy.”

If one only pays attention to the text, most of the book is lost. It is the cartoonish illustrations that make you think. There are three women sitting on a couch eating sandwiches (one assumes anchovy) while an alligator sits under the table, and an axe is propped up in the corner. The bookshelf holds atlases and an abacus. There are framed pictures of aces, an anteater, an angelic ape, and a suit of armor. On the base of the lamp is an acorn and the shade is covered with ampersands. There is a tube of Acne Away on the end table and a pile of books about things that begin with A on the coffee table topped by an apple. The women’s clothes have pictures of arrows, atoms, and broken dashes (I couldn’t figure that one out). There’s a bowl of almonds being stolen by ants.

Some pages are filled with similar styled illustrations. The concept reminds me of Graeme Base’s astonishingly unparalleled Animalia but much more quirky and casual.

Some pages are simple, like the letter H showing a rabbit with 107 faces of hunchbacks in his hair or K featuring two people kayaking across a wheat field.

There are a few pages that depend on speech bubbles instead of illustrations to render words that begin with the featured letter. This is not to say that every page needed to be cluttered. The letter Y humorously features a split page illustration of an unfortunate yeti as well as a few small things that begin with Y in the background. It reads, “Yesterday Yuri the yeti did yoga,/Today he spilled yogurt all over his toga.”

The good illustrations are what holds the reader’s interest as the text is less than impressive. “Excellent Edward, exceedingly picky,/Ate eggs with an eel whose earwax was icky.” Of course it is that kind of weird and wacky language that will intrigue a more reluctant reader. I can just imagine fourth-grade boys giggling over this book. I’m all for that.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages


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