awiggles its hook
right off its back,
starts playing golf
with a thwack and a whack.
When an alphabet book begins with a visual that looks to be the letter “o” but the text begins by highlighting a lower case “a”, then readers should immediately suspect that Alphabet Antics is not going to be your typical alphabet book. While the book is certainly not one for those who are just learning the lower case letters of the English alphabet, youngsters who have comfortably mastered the alphabet’s lower case letters will find that Alphabet Antics, created by the award-winning duo of poet Robert Heidbreder and illustrator Philippe Béha, offers them much textual and visual fun.
For each lower case letter of the alphabet, Heidbreder provides a quatrain (abcb rhyme scheme) that tells readers what that particular letter is doing, and then Béha’s double-page spread illustration reveals the anthropomorphic letter engaged in the described activity. In the case of “a”, the letter has removed its vertical right hand portion and transformed that line with its hook at the bottom into a golf club. But “a” is not playing just a normal game of golf for his tee is an ice cream cone while the ball is the round scoop of ice cream.
Young readers will enjoy the various antics in which the letters find themselves involved. Poor “g” “gets squished by an elephant’s toe” and becomes an “o”. A skunk uses an inverted “h” as a drinking goblet, a rabbit, by adding a handle, converts an “r” into a watering can, and two mice find refuge beneath the sturdy arches of an “m”. Other letters take matters into their own hands (so to speak), and “i” flips itself over to become a punctuation mark, an “!”, while “n”’s engaging in the same activity transforms itself into a “u”. Heidbreder provides a delightfully surprising end to the book.
“I’m last in every way.
But, look, I’ll be first.
Zip zap! I’m a.”
And how does the last become the first? It’s easy if you’re a twisty “z” snake.
Béha’s mixed media illustrations are full of action and humour. For instance, when the skunk drinks from its “h” drinking vessel, nearby flowers are seen to be wilting from the skunk’s odor. And as “c lazes about/like a sleeping cat./A dog leaps on./"What a comfy mat!"
Alphabet Antics, a good home/child care purchase, would not be out of place in early years classrooms where its contents could serve as a stimulus for other alphabet-related art activities.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.