cover image Alphabetabum: An Album of Rare Photographs and Medium Verses

Alphabetabum: An Album of Rare Photographs and Medium Verses

Vladimir Radunsky and Chris Raschka. New York Review Books, $19.95 (80p) ISBN 978-1-59017-817-1

Radunsky and Raschka, the team behind Hip Hop Dog and other titles, collaborate on an unusual volume of vintage studio portraits. Radunsky supplies favorites from his collection of photographs of long-ago children, purchased secondhand in the U.S., Europe, and Russia. Raschka bestows A-to-Z names upon the anonymous children and composes alliterative verse to accompany each sepia picture. A young violinist poses for letter E: “Excellent Edwin Eugene/ Executes each etude with ease,/ If you know what I mean.” A boy grins in his sailor suit: “Salty Shelby Scott/ Sings seasonal songs/ Whether in season or not.” Oddly, some rhymes seem not to fit the sitter: K’s “Keen Kerry Keith” is not “smiling/ Through his teeth,” and Z’s “Jazzy Zelda Zip” does not have “a hand/ Upon her hip.” Children of non-European heritage are absent, a curious omission, given Radunsky’s statement in a concluding essay that the photographs provide “an extraordinary chance to see what our great-great-great-grandparents looked like when they were children.” While the images are poignant and the book design elegant, the flip verse does its subjects a disservice. Ages 4–8. Agent: Brenda Bowen, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Oct.)