________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 23. . . February 24, 2017


The Alphabet Thief.

Bill Richardson. Pictures by Roxanna Bikadoroff.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books, 2017.
40 pp., hardcover & pdf, $17.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55498-877-8 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55498-878-5 (pdf).

Subject Headings:
English language-Alphabet-Juvenile poetry.
Alphabet books.

Kindergarten-grade 4 / Ages 5-9.

Review by Todd Kyle.

*** /4



The Alphabet Thief was daring and smart.
When the night was silent and black,
She stole all the letters, she gathered them up
And took them away in her sack.

The Alphabet Thief stole all of the A’s,
And all of the coats became cots.
All of the fairs were turned into firs,
And all of the boats became bots.


A small format hardcover picture book, The Alphabet Thief is a rhyming story that goes through the entire alphabet, speculating on what might happen if each letter was stolen in turn, taking a letter out of a word to make it into another. The rhyme is accompanied by illustrations of each transformation in muted ink and watercolour, often featuring a young beret clad girl as bemused observer of the bizarre permutations. The girl becomes the hero by using the two remaining letters—Y and Z—to form a slingshot which she uses to shoot Z’s to send the thief to sleep, allowing her to open the thief’s sack to set all the letters free.

     A joyous, brilliantly conceived romp, this book mines the now classic bending of early literacy staples to produce an innovative effect, culminating in the book’s last stanza

The Alphabet Thief, the Alphabet Thief,
Someone could catch her, that’s clear.
And who was the hero that saved the day?
It was me! You can write my name here.

      clearly implying that the reader is the real hero after pondering all of the mysterious wordplay.

     The illustrations are highly entertaining, depicting the Thief as a long nosed, grimacing, witch like character wearing mostly black with striped leggings.

     The format of the book, though, does create a few wrinkles: it renders the pictures too small to share in a classroom or library story circle, and it begs the question of what age group it will really appeal to: pre-readers, who will need the spelling anomalies pointed out to them, or later readers, who will spot them all but may be turned off by the whimsical (although occasionally ironic) illustrations. The visual jokes will appeal at several levels—but on occasion are a bit obtuse. And lastly there is the matter of the “Z’s”: in a Canadian context, these would be called “zed”, but almost need to be called “zee” in order to refer to sleep.

     Still, there is much here to like, and the overall concept is appealing, useful, and subscribes to modern literacy theory without losing a sense of fun.


Todd Kyle is the CEO of the Newmarket Public Library in Ontario and Past President of the Ontario Library Association.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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