Books Mystereadventure Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes

[Nonfiction Wednesday] Sinister Alphabet Books – Brilliant Concept Books


Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2015 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, as well as reading challenges that we have pledged to join this year.

We have just launched our new reading theme for November – December: The Butler Did It! A MysteREADventure Theme!


These two concept books feature alphabets with a sinister twist. And we do love our alphabet books here at GatheringBooks (check out my post on Alphabet Books with pizzazz with Maira Kalman, Oliver Jeffers, Vladimir Radunsky, Chris Raschka, and Manuel Sumberac).

While cartoonist Roz Chast shares the malevolent things he hates from A to Z, the award-winning tandem Michaël Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo offer a brilliant (dare-I-say-a-tad-mysterious) sleight-of-hand with missing alphabets in Take Away the A.

IMG_6458What I Hate from A to Z

Written and Illustrated by: Roz Chast
Published by: Bloomsbury, 2011
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This is more an alphabet book for adults than a concept book for children, as the amazing cartoonist Roz Chast (of Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?) alphabetically enumerates in excruciating detail the many things that make her anxious: from alien abduction:


to carnivals (which she has decidedly ruined for me with her very carnivalesque description – oh and yes, it reminded me of one of my favourite HBO TV Series Carnivale – has anyone ever seen that?)


… and the bane for people who may have frequented doctors and hospitals:


By the way, there’s a separate alphabet just devoted to Doctors and Illnesses – hypochondria much, really? Then, there is also the less likely:


While anxieties and fears are no laughing matter, Roz Chast has managed to exorcise some of her demons by putting them down on paper here to share her despair, twisting them into something witty despite its undercurrent of truth – as they say the most comical of things are the most tragic as well. I am looking forward to reading more of her works.

Take Away The A: An Alphabeast of a BookIMG_6468

Written by: Michaël Escoffier Illustrated by: Kris Di Giacomo
Published by: Enchanted Lion Books, 2014
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Everything they said about this book is oh-so-true: it is brilliant, refreshingly-ingenious, and layered with so many visual/textual puns that it simply is a joy to read and re-read. The reader is bound to find new things hidden stealthily by the artists in some obscure corner of the page that would add to the reader’s enjoyment of this alphabeast of a book.


What happens indeed if you take out a letter from a word – will that make them incomplete? Something new entirely? Transformed into something better (or beast)? This book reminded me of how much I loved word play as a child.


I have a feeling that this book will effectively bring out that mischievous inventiveness in any bright child who will likewise be fascinated by the world of stories that can be created from each page. Just check out those bears that stay behind bars (without the E) – what kind of mischief could they have been up to – are they exhibits in a zoo? Or have they been caught stealing ice cream cones? My absolute favourite though is this one:


I envision this serving as a great mentor-text for creative teachers who are keen on encouraging the imaginative play among children on what could happen to missing alphabets in curious words, indeed. Who knew where those lost letters go anyway? Another mystery to solve!


#nfpb2015 Challenge Update: 62, 63 (25)

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

8 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] Sinister Alphabet Books – Brilliant Concept Books

  1. Myra! I haven’t thought about Carnivale for a long time–what a great show. Clancy Brown was just terrifying! Hmmm…I wonder if it’s on Netflix…and Chast’s book looks right up my alley…I feel like we are often kindred reading spirits 🙂


  2. I used Take Away the A with students last year, a very fun book for older kids, clever and entertaining as you showed. The ‘Things I Hate’ is certainly for adults, but what fun Chast has made with her list. My daughter will love the carnival page; she hates them too! Thanks, Myra!


  3. By the same team as Take Away the A, they did Where’s the Baboon? which might work for your theme since it’s a puzzle word game.


  4. I don’t know WHAT I HATE A to Z but I love TAKE AWAY THE A – thank you for sharing.


  5. Take Away the A looks absolutely magical! It could lend itself to so many extension activities with kids of all sorts of ages. I need to get my hands on it! I’m a bit of a word nerd myself, so it looks like something right up my alley. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!


  6. I need to find Take Away the A. I have the author’s newest book.


  7. Take Away the A! 🙂 Need it!


  8. Pingback: [Nonfiction Wednesday] An Alphabet Book That Takes You Around The World in Anita Lobel’s “Away From Home” – Gathering Books

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