No ordinary A to Z, this is a book where each letter of the alphabet gets its own story. It is quirky, just as you’d expect a book from Jeffers. Some of the stories are linked and there is a satisfying ending, connecting the last letter story with the first.
My kid’s favourite letter story is D because they learnt what laughing in the face of Death meant (I have had to play Death a considerable number of times since). They also liked discovering the name Delilah. You see? It’s educational too.
Some American reviews have been negative saying that it has violent or shocking things taking place in it, and that it isn’t for children. But that’s just nonsense.
Helen (in the ‘H’ story) lives in half a house on the edge of a cliff. One day she rolls out of the wrong side of bed and plummets towards the sea.
That doesn’t mean she drowns though does it? The story doesn’t say ‘And Helen fell to her death’. I mean, a whale could emerge just before and she could bounce off it. Anything could happen. My kids didn’t find it dark or sad it all. They though it was funny, as did I. And kids don’t mind scary or threatening stuff anyway.
The way the text is set out makes you think that lots of the stories should rhyme. Most don’t. But some of the stories do and maybe that’s why ‘R’ is my favourite story, because it’s meter matches its structure. I also like J because that’s my letter and so clearly the best one AND it talks about jelly – one of my favourite things.
It is a large, heavy and very satisfying book to look through again and again. It reminded me of this book – Omnibus of Nursery Rhymes by Eric and Lucy Kincaid (Brimax) from my childhood (published the same year I was born…an excellent year. Also a long, long time ago):
There’s plenty of scary stuff in this book. Nursery rhymes have got violent themes galore.
Kids are fine with this, so don’t let that put you off getting Once Upon an Alphabet.
It is beautifully illustrated and A4 sized and so little hands will need help with looking through it. But as it’s so lovely that shouldn’t be a problem – you can enjoy it too.
Once Upon an Alphabet is a very satisfying omnibus of letter stories that eschews letter favouritism, honouring each and every letter. A very good book indeed.