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Thursday, October 6, 2011

An Annoying ABC, written by Barbara Bottner and illustrated by Michael Emberley. Knopf, Random House. 2011. $19.99 ages 3 and up

"Petunia pestered Quentin.
Quentin quarreled with
Roland mumbled.
Stella stumbled.
Todd tumbled."

Here they come...trooping in for their day at school. Already we have a few obvious clues to their personalities; and, we are only on the front endpapers. Turn the page and we meet the rest of them, including Miss Mabel. She's smack in the middle of the motley crew of kindergartners! (Well, that's what I think when I see them, having known so many in my years of teaching).

They settle in, and begin their morning peacefully and with purpose. Oh, Adelaide! She's the one who sets off an alphabetic adventure of epic proportions. She annoys Bailey, which leads to Bailey blaming Clyde, which leads to Clyde crying...and so on, and so on.  Adelaide is satisfied that she has got something started and is off to some other mischief. As they go, life in the classroom becomes more chaotic. Miss Mabel is concerned and muttering. But annoyances abound and pass from one to the next, without any thought of a ceasefire. And here comes Adelaide...chasing the terrified classroom pet and peeving Zelda. It is too much! Zelda takes her revenge.

An extremely patient and undeniably understanding teacher gives Zelda a chance to make her case. Zelda places blame where the chaos began...with Adelaide. A quick chat and Adelaide has the chance to make it right. She does so and sets a example for her classmates, which ultimately leads to a much calmer afternoon.

While the story itself moves along quickly, making sure that the cause-and-effect action progresses from one child to the next, readers must stop and pore over the charming illustrations that Michael Emberley has created to add a whole other dimension to these alliterative alphabetic antics. His characters are unique and expressive, each adding their own distinct personality to the shared classroom. They are a multicultural group who exhibit many of the same idiosyncracies that are likely to be in any classroom. That is their charm!

I love that their quiet afternoon includes a reading of Miss Brooks Loves Books, the first collaboration for this well-matched team. This double page spread shows each of the classmates in various states of attentive listening as the teacher reads to them. Hmmm...Adelaide?

Please put it on your list...Christmas is coming!

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