cover image The Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter Z!

The Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter Z!

Steve Martin, , illus. by Roz Chast. . Doubleday/Flying Dolphin, $17.95 (52pp) ISBN 978-0-385-51662-4

Actor, playwright and novelist Martin (Shopgirl ) branches into picture books for this nutty abecedary. No humdrum “A is for apple” list, this volume faces outrageous, alliterative couplets with full-page cartoons approximating the situations they describe. Known for skewering middle-class anxieties, Chast (Meet My Staff ) ably sketches scenes of kitchen mayhem (“Friday when Frank fixed frijoles and French fries/ His fiancée Franny was covered in fruit flies”) and pictures the main office for Xerxes Xylophones, where a bizarre X-perience unfolds (“Ambidextrous Alex was actually axed/ For waxing, then faxing, his boss's new slacks”). She also supplements the nonsense rhymes with added images of items that start with the highlighted letter (when “Quincy the kumquat querie[s] the queen,” readers see a bookshelf of tomes on quintuplets, quantum mechanics and quartz). Martin and Chast show their mettle as each other's wacky sidekicks, performing for an all-ages crowd. Adults see two well-known artists at work, creating mind-bending tableaux, while children get a taste of original tongue-twisters. This peculiar and funny book resembles a round of the Surrealists' game of exquisite cadaver or Mad Libs, worked out in a dizzying combination of words and pictures. All ages. (Oct.)