During the week of May 7-13 we celebrate the annual CBC - sponsored Children’s Book Week. I invited a unique guest to help us get in the right frame of mind: none other than Moose, co-star of the recently released Z IS FOR MOOSE, by Kelly Bingham, pictures by Paul O. Zelinsky.
A Horn Book review offers a detailed description worth reading. Moose insists that you check out this link before we begin, and also wants me to mention that the book has already earned
six starred reviews, including Horn Book, Publishers’ Weekly, School Library journal, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (CCB).
That said, Moose has signaled hoofs up to start discussing his book.
Six starred reviews? For an alphabet book? How hard can it be to create a simple alphabet book? With Zebra in charge and the other initial letter icons clearly experienced at this process, things should proceed without a hitch: “A is for apple, B is for ball” etc. Anyone could do that, right? Everyone has done that, right again?
Not with Moose in the line-up they haven't.
Even before the title page Moose is peeking under the curtain and dancing in anticipation while the other alphabet players calmly wait for directions.
And about that title page. Moose smugly eyes the large banner he has inserted which obscures the intended title, changing it to Z is for MOOSE. With just a squeak of foreshadowing tucked into the title “M”, the roll call begins without a glitch.
Each alphabet actor discards the everyday gear it is bearing or wearing (Ball has a bear, Cat wears a track suit, and Zebra wears suitably striped referee shirt and cap) to take its place on the platform and strike a traditional alphabet book pose. These are clearly composed, experienced icons, and Zebra is clearly running the show.
There’s just one problem- Moose. His eagerness, excitability, impatience, and raw exuberance (not to mention his size) dislodge the duck, edge out the elephant, hang over the hat, and otherwise manage to create mayhem while waiting for his turn on the M stage. To his horror (I agree, Moose, who can blame you?) he is appalled to find that “M is for MOUSE”!
From that point on the tension and chaos rapidly escalate through stages of denial, rage, depression, resignation, and on to a satisfyingly surprising reconciliation.
In an earlier post about the POWER OF PICTURE BOOKS I wrote that the very best picture books are compact, compelling, and complete, with layers upon layers of entertainment, imagery, and depth of meaning.
On every count, Z Is for Moose is one powerful book.
As an alphabet book alone it offers novel repetition of images, consistent sequence, and embedded “search” potential (W= Whale + wail; Y= YoYo + yank; T= Truck +teeth +tires +tail; S= Snake+ stripes+ stop+ +scratch out +scribble +sneer, etc.)
Character traits abound in both Moose and Zebra, but in every other player as well, offering potential discussions of imagined inner thoughts and subtext. That queen certainly looks like she'd have something to say, given half a chance. Take a look at the expression on Mouse to guess how he feels about all this.
Readers of any age may pause to consider the reasonable limits of enthusiasm, alternatives to intrusion, external control vs. self-control, freedom of expression vs. a time and place for order. Then there are questions of fairness, kindness, bullying, peer support, and personal space.
Okay, Moose, I agree. This book is funny and entertaining and none of this is necessary.
But give yourself (and Zebra and Kelly and Paul and your alphabet friends) credit for creating a book that wins on every level and is destined to be a classic.
I'm delighted to report that next week's post will feature interviews with Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky discussing their creation of this remarkable book. That allows everyone time to read it before they pop in! (No, Moose, next week is their week, not yours. Yes, I'll let you ask some questions, too.)
I'd love to see what your thoughts are about the book, and be sure to stop back next week to hear from Kelly and Paul. If you've had a chance to share the book with kids, please comment on their reactions to Moose and Company. I'll bet Paul and Kelly would enjoy reading what they have to say.
If you are an aspiring PB creator yourself, this week I have a guest post at Rochelle Melander's blog with some tips and basics.