cover image An Edward Lear Alphabet

An Edward Lear Alphabet

Edward Lear. HarperCollins Publishers, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-028113-7

Lear published these nonsense rhymes in 1871, yet the intervening century has not tarnished their brightness. In this exhilarating update, Lears whimsical presence makes itself felt in singsong verse and in antic images of a white-bearded gentleman who flies a letter-K Kite and runs from a letter-M Mouse. Lears choice of key words is delightfully eccentric, gaining steam through the course of the 26 letters with a predictable formula: E was once a little eel,/ Eely/ Weely/ Peely/ Eely/ Twirly tweely/ Little eel precedes F was once a little fish,/ Fishy/ Wishy/ Squishy/ Fishy/ In a dishy/ Little fish. Readers will find themselves wagging their heads and swaying to the words, which demand to be announced in a seesaw rhythm. The Victorian poets flair for ageless verse is pumped up by the pared-down, color-saturated illustrations. Radunsky (Yucka Drucka Droni) places collage-style images against flat, featureless backdrops of deep pink, hot yellow and Astroturf green. Each letter of the alphabet is posted on the page in a geometric shape, as if snipped from a book of clip art. The illustrator, like the poet who inspires him, takes the unserious quite seriously, and the result is an unpredictable alphabet that sustains its zany energy over repeated readings. Ages 3-6. (Apr.)