Book Review – Z was Zapped

TITLE: The alphabet theatre proudly presents the Z was zapped : a play in twenty-six acts
AUTHOR & Illustrator: Chris Van Allsburg
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHED: 1987

I was talking to a friend of mine about a movie and discovered it was a children’s book first, so I looked the author up and came up with a whole list of titles. But this one is so far my favorite.
In fact, it’s my favorite because the thing reminds me a little of Edward Gorey, except with letters instead of people, which makes it a little more friendly for the masses. In each case, something happens to a letter of the alphabet. Really, there’s not much to say about this one. I hope it’s not too much a spoiler (it should be obvious!) that Z, for instance, gets Zapped.

My only issue with the book is the layout. On the right hand side of the page, we have the illustrations – black and white by the author himself. On the left, we have the text. But in this case, the illustration leads, so when you’re looking at a page that tells you what happens to P, the illustration is showing what happens to Q. When it’s telling you that B is badly bitten, you’re looking at the picture of C being Cut to Ribbons. I wish you were reading and seeing the same letter, you know?

In all, I think it’s awesome. I tried to read it to the baby and he even liked it (he’s seven months old).
If it weren’t for the layout issue, I’d give it a five. Alas.

4/5 pages.

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Book Review – Forgotten Fads and Fabulous Flops

Rhino Presents: Forgotten Fads and Fabulous Flops
Paul Kirchner
Paperback, 1995

 

Rhino Presents: Forgotten Fads and Fabulous Flops: An amazing collection of goofy stuff that seemed like a good idea at the time is a book about, well, stuff that only worked for a minute or two, if it worked at all.

This book is arranged alphabetically, mostly, so if you’re looking for something specific because you remember it and none of your friends do, then you’ve got a pretty good shot of finding it quickly.  But there’s no index, so if you don’t remember exactly what it was called but you do remember chewing a gum that looked like a band-aid, you’re going to have to read through the table of contents and figure out what you meant (It’s OUCH!, by the way.  And it was awesome…)

Here’s the thing.  For every item that you wonder why it didn’t work out (all the candy, for instance, is something I remember having in the 80s and liked, or there was an All in The Family toy that never sold) there is something that makes you just totally confused about what the hell it is you’re looking at.  Want a doll with prosthetic hooks for hands who comes with his own suitcase full of interchangeable prosthetic somethings?  They made that.  Want a pair of underwear that holds a condom in place so it can’t fall off?  There’s a patent for that.

So this book has two halves.  The forgotten fads part will give you a trip down memory lane (for a brief second, remember, since none of this stuff lasted all that long), and the fabulous flops part will make you scratch your head while wondering either what were they thinking or why didn’t that work.  There is a list of celebrity flop restaurants, for instance.   There is a line of perfume that BIC tried that never sold, at least in part, because the bottle made it look like a cigarette lighter, which they also make (hello, safety issue!).  There is even a urinal for women that requires one to totally remove her underwear and straddle the urinal bowl while hiking her skirts up to at least waist level.  (No thank you.)

 

At the end of the day, though, this book might help you win a trivia contest at your local bar, but there’s not a lot of use for it beyond that.  As somebody that keeps pretty much all of my books, I realized about 1/3 of the way through that this would be a book that there would be no point in keeping.

I’ll give it a 3/5 for finding funky stuff that is fantastic, freakish and few (and for their alliterative use of the letter F), but it’s not a book worth keeping around, so get it from the library and read it a few pages at a time between the heavier stuff.

Book Review – Wonderland Alphabet by Alethea Kontis [and a double Alpha Oops Halloween BONUS!]

Title: The Wonderland Alphabet
Author: Alethea Kontis
Illustrator: Janet K. Lee
Format: Board Book
Written: 2012
Published: 2012

In the theme of Alice in Wonderland, Alethea Kontis has brought us the most adorable alphabet poem ever.  Janet K Lee’s  illustrations are amazing.  And the layout is incredible.  And there’s nothing about this I don’t like (except, maybe that our alphabet only has 26 letters…perhaps she could redo this with the Khmer alphabet, which is 74 letters long?) Have I gushed enough?

From thieves that run off with parts of letters to grins without cats and playing cards willing to deal the queen’s punishments (see what I did there?), there is nothing about this book that I dislike.  The colors are perfect, the artwork is gorgeous, and the rhyme has no sign of that sickening cutesy that children’s books so often suffer from.  In fact, I think this is truely a book designed for an adult to *want* to read to their children.  Or their cats, cause, you know, I don’t have kids.

I checked it out at the store and did something I don’t often do – bought it at its full cover retail price.  For me.

So the down-low on this book?  Buy it.  Find somewhere that you can display it.  Revisit it once in a while.  Love it, cherish it, share it.  This book would also make a great gift – for a new baby or an Alice fan, or someone who you want to remind to never grow up too fast.

In case you haven’t figured out by now, Five out of Five Pages.

Since it’s Halloween this week, I wanted to give y’all a little bit of an extra treat. (Also, I don’t want my blog toilet papered.)  Reviews of Alethea’s other children’s books!

Title: AlphaOops – The Day That Z Went First
Author: Alethea Kontis
Illustrator: Bob Kolar
Format: Hardcover
Written: 2006
Published: 2006

Title: AlphaOops – H is for Halloween
Author: Alethea Kontis
Illustrator: Bob Kolar
Format: Hardcover
Written: 2010
Published: 2010

I’ve known about these books for a while now, and it took me a bit to finally get around to looking into them.  I got H is for Halloween off a used book site, and it promptly became the book that sits on my hearth to round out my Halloween decorations this year.  They’re just that awesome.

In “The Day Z Went First” Z is tired of being stuck 26th in line and wants his turn at leading the parade.  The letters quickly decide that Z has a point, and A steps aside and lets them go backwards – Z Y X W P… um, P?  Yeah, so the rest of the letters get a little upset too, because, well, the letters in the middle are going to always be in the middle, and what if you don’t want to be next to the same letter all the time (or, even worse, what if you do and they won’t cooperate!?). H refuses to go anywhere other than where she should be.  Z starts getting testy, because really, all he wants is the alphabet to be over and with everyone all over the place, nothing’s getting done.  Then some of the letters decide they should stand for more than one thing, V tries for a second turn… One of the letters even gets stuck in the bathroom and has to be tacked on just before A, who steals the show in a most amazing way (see what I did there?!).

In “H is for Halloween” the same sort of chaos ensues.  It’s time to start the alphabet, but A isn’t ready, so they push H out in front because H has top billing.  The best thing about this book is that it’s not your typical letters and words.  In fact, there’s actually a page where J can’t always be a Jack-o-lantern.  While everything is going relatively smoothly at first, there’s a bit of a problem – you see, after K is for Kracken and P is for Pirate…  poor B has to change his costume because he’s dressed as a Buccaneer.     After Y is a Yeti, B has to give up on Bigfoot.  And what about X, who can’t be hardly anything?  (Serendipity! S has an idea!)

There are so many things I want to say about these books, but I don’t want to give everything away.  I like that this is a book about whether or not you can think outside the box instead of following the established order of things.  I mean does it really matter if G and H stick together or not if all 26 letters still make their appearances?

I think these books are great, and I really hope that she eventually makes her way through the whole series.

I’m giving both of them five out of five pages.

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*****

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