cover image Alpha Beta Chowder

Alpha Beta Chowder

Jeanne Steig. HarperCollins Publishers, $15 (45pp) ISBN 978-0-06-205006-9

This animated alphabet book, abuzz with crazy characters, brings a crooked charm to the frequent drudgery of learning one's ABCs. Jeanne Steig's verse bubbles merrily along, drolly blending abundant alliterations with downright silliness in a wonderful celebration of language. William Steig's lighthearted illustrations perfectly complement the keen wit while they add depth to the numerous people and animals conjured up in the poetry. From ``Amphibian, avoid thy fate. Slither off! Absquatulate!'' to ``Zelda's fire has fizzled out,'' there is never a dull moment. In addition to their comical content, several verses offer a tongue-twisting tour de force: `` ` 'Twas a year ago yesterday,' yammered the yak, /` That a youth with a yataghan jumped on my back,' '' and all demand to be read out loud. The Steigs have created a splendid collaboration (similar in many respects to their Consider the Lemming ) , a veritable linguistic chowder that invites readers not to sip but to plunge wholeheartedly in. All ages. (Sept.)