Linda Bronson, . . Holt, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-6294-6

The distinctive clay-based letters in this abecedarian volume steal the show. Bronson (the illustrator of Teatime with Emma Buttercup) combines clay with sequins, tissue paper, pipe cleaners and more to create contortionist creatures that curve and twist with the greatest of ease, against painted backdrops that suggest the high energy of the big top. The photographed figures appear in arrestingly crisp and clear close-ups, making their stylized, almost Cubist features all the more striking. The text provides serviceable rhymes ("C is for Clown/ curved round like a noodle./ D is for Dog,/ who looks like a poodle"), but the ingenuity comes through the artwork; each page gives readers the chance to identify their ABCs in a novel context. The clown here is a long, impossibly thin lime-green and banana-yellow clay figure embellished with pearl buttons and a hat festooned with rickrack. He's curved around a D composed of two trained white poodles with pom-poms and googly eyes, one sitting on a ball, the other clinging to the first in an arc. Other standouts include a charming green snake—S, of course—and a charismatic ringmaster bowing in an R shape to an audience of tiny painted faces. It is easy to imagine even the youngest of children enjoying this show as they learn to identify all of its participants, A to Z. Ages 2-5. (May)