cover image Al Pha's Bet

Al Pha's Bet

Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illus. by Delphine Durand, Putnam, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-24601-2

Rosenthal's (Duck! Rabbit!) Al Pha is a character from ancient history, a man who "lived back when all sorts of things were being invented. Like fire. The wheel. Shadows." He's a funny-looking guy, too, with a thumblike body and jellified arms. In a private bet with himself, he takes up the king's challenge to arrange the letters of the alphabet in a beautiful order. Durand's (Big Rabbit's Bad Mood) loopy acrylic paintings carry the story through a long, long middle section about how Al comes to arrange each of the letters as he does ("Gee, I really am doing it. G—that can be the next letter!"), populating Al's world with a wacky assortment of proto-trees and flowers, as well as a cast of equally goofy-looking villagers and animals. Pages are well designed and visually lively throughout, the text peppered with spot illustrations. At long last Al's project is done, and—predictably—the king recognizes his effort and names the alphabet after Al and his private wager. Fans of dopey puns everywhere, rejoice! Ages 3–5. (May)