cover image An Annoying ABC

An Annoying ABC

Barbara Bottner, illus. by Michael Emberley. Knopf, $19.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-375-86708-8

Anyone who thinks life is a breeze for abecedarians should check out this knowing and very funny primer from Bottner and Emberley, whose previous pairing resulted in the wonderful Miss Brooks Loves Books! (And I Don't). The book describes, in alphabetical order, a chain reaction of unpleasant and unfortunate behavior. "It was a quiet morning until... Adelaide annoyed Bailey. Bailey blamed Clyde. Clyde cried. Dexter drooled on Eloise. Eloise elbowed Flora," and so on until the action comes full circle with Zelda, pushed to the edge by a clumsy Yves, "zap[s]" Adelaide with a hose. Is there any hope for this living alphabet of woe? Yes, thanks to Miss Mabel, the savvy, supportive teacher whose name puts her smack in the middle of it all. Expertly implementing a chain of apologies, Miss Mabel achieves the classroom equivalent of a State Department peace accord: a tranquil story hour (the featured book is Miss Brooks). Bottner's deadpan, minimalist text inspires Emberley to some terrific portraits in extremis%E2%80%94this isn't just an alphabet book, it's an encyclopedia of kindergarten deportment, from aggression to zealotry. Ages 2%E2%80%936. (Sept.)