cover image The Magic of Letters

The Magic of Letters

Tony Johnston, illus. by Wendell Minor. Holiday House/Porter, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8234-4159-4

Plenty of books celebrate the power and fun of words. Johnston and Minor, the team behind Cat, What Is That?, seek to remind readers that without letters, there wouldn’t be any words. Because letters can be arranged in seemingly endless combinations, everyone has a distinctive name—a point that one spread drives home in a dialogue balloon filled with line after line of names in a typographic celebration of individuality. Letters make possible words that tickle brains and tongues: “The flibbertigibbet ate an enchanted quesadilla and became an acrobat, who slipped on a trout.” Most importantly, letters unlock all the possibilities of reading and writing. The book doesn’t entirely fulfill its promise that “letters hold magic. When you know their secrets, they open worlds”; beyond telling readers that “each letter has a name, wonderful and strange” the creators jump quickly to full-blown words without focusing on the letters’ distinctive looks and sounds. But the text is heartfelt, and Minor’s sketchbook-style illustrations have an immediacy and energy that will make readers feel that they’re peering over his shoulder as the drawings take shape. Ages 4–8. [em](Apr.) [/em]