Review–Once Upon An Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters by Oliver Jeffers

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Cover for Once Upon an AlphabetI never expected to be laughing at an alphabet book, but there I was, smiling at A, giggling at B, and happily laughing from C through to Z and wishing I had someone to read it to. Oliver Jeffers’ Once Upon an Alphabet is a series of twenty-six short, humorous stories, one for each letter of the alphabet.

The tales are unexpected, funny, wry, and quirky. Each story stars a character or figure whose name begins with the relevant letter, but Jeffers takes great joy in including any number of other words sharing the same beginning letter. Characters from different tales wonder through the stories; the intrepid, problem-solving duo of the Owl and the Octopus save the day in more than one tale, while Edward the Astronaut works on conquering his fear of heights in A and Z. Each story is short, under a hundred words, and carefully crafted.

Jeffers’ deceptively simple illustrations finish out the tales as a heart-faced owl rides a line-drawn octopus through a suggested sea, or a blocky elephant stands before a large, photo-realistic envelope that has knocked over a very surprised pen-and-ink nun and her blackboard.

The humor in these stories is at least as much for adults as it is for children. Children may enjoy the story of burned bridges; adults will be able to identify with the participants enough to laugh (and sigh). The same is true of the story of the cup in its cupboard; as a child, I might have cried over this story, as an adult, my sense of humor may be slightly warped.

Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters is a one-of-a-kind collection of short stories recommended for lovers of the fantastic, the unexpected, and the humorous.

Images for E’s story below, courtesy of the Penguin Young Readers Group. Click on any image for a larger version.

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Publication information:
Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters came out October 14, 2014.
Publisher: Philomel
ISBN: 0399167919 (ISBN13: 9780399167911)

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