Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, March 9, 2012

Z Is For..What?!

As a reader or listener you can predict with regularity what the letters will represent in most alphabet books.  Children (students) know this responding almost robotically; A is for apple, B is for ball, and C is for cat.  Looking at the cover of Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham with pictures by Caldecott Medal and three time Caldecott Honor winner Paul O. Zelinsky (HarperCollins Children's Books), the zebra glaring at the mischievous moose, you know this is not going to be a typical alphabet tale.

Zebra appropriately attired in a referee cap and shirt, clipboard in hand, whistle in his mouth, directs a line of characters representative of the alphabet letters moving across the title page, verso and dedication page, having come through a backstage door.  Readers will note moose in line poking the needle into the lollipop much like a squirming, uncooperative child.  This production of an alphabet book begins well until...

A is for Apple
B is for Ball
C is for Cat
D is for Moose..Moose?No. Moose does not start with D. 
You are on the wrong page.

Moose wants to be on stage (a page) in the worst way trying for E, F, G, H, I, J, K and L; not being content to wait for M.  When his impetuous anticipation of finally being in the spotlight is crushed, an eruption of monumental proportions follows with downright sadness close on its heels.  Zebra, as a true umpire, intercedes when he can; in the spirit of compromise making the show a success for all.

In her first picture book Kelly Bingham demonstrates that she certainly has the inside track on engaging and capturing the attention of her readers with humor.  Zebra's escalating frustration with Moose's attempts to be exactly where he is not to be are evident by his dialogue, followed by Moose's questioning, Now? Now? Now?  As the narrative follows the roller coaster back and forth emotions of the two characters, readers will be hooked.

True to form I checked the jacket and cover illustrations as soon as this book was in my hands.  Paul O. Zelinsky using mixed media throughout this title chose to have the jacket and cover differ.  On the front cover Zebra lays in blissful repose without the presence of Moose in "person" or in text.  The purple color on the cover curtains extends to both the front and back endpapers.  When the front endpapers are turned the story begins before the beginning, visually and textually, as it does after the ending, with the color purple being lifted from the bottom like a curtain.  I like that in a book.

Zelinsky has a hint of events to come picturing a tiny, teeny, mouse peeking from the v in the M in Moose across the title page.  His attention to detail enhances the laughter factor, endearing readers to the narrative; Ball whose hand is dragging along a toy bear, Moose hanging from the top of the letter H page, eyes ever hopeful, or peeking from the pouch of the Kangaroo questioningly. 

Moose's facial expressions, tantrum in full swing, are outrageously funny with large visuals bleeding off the pages until calmness sets in again; each letter's stage framed in a different color.  Zebra goes into full protection mode after Zelinsky portrays Moose's upset "Crayola" style.  I dare anyone to look at the page for T without laughing out loud.

This picture book debut, Z is for Moose, by Kelly Bingham enhanced by pictures from Paul O. Zelinsky will have belly laughs ringing from the rafters at storytime.  I can guarantee whether with a group or one-on-one a single reading will not suffice; be prepared to enjoy this repeatedly.

For more information about Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky please follow the links embedded in their names.  By following this link you can access several guides for this title developed for educators, parents and families and community coordinators by the people at RIF.  Enjoy the book trailer.


  1. Hi Xena's Mom, thank you so much for the wonderful review! And I'm so glad you enjoyed MOOSE!

    Kelly Bingham

  2. You are welcome Kelly. When a book is full of laughter ...and love I have to give it a loud "shout-out".

  3. Your reviews are always so thorough. We love silly around here - especially silly paired with educational. I think I know what my next book purchase is going to be!

  4. A copy ended up on my personal shelves, too. I can not resist the combination of ABCs and laughter.