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The Z Was Zapped: A Play in Twenty-Six Acts [Hardcover]

Chris Van Allsburg
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 24.50
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Book Description

Oct. 26 1987
A dramatic black- and- white presentation of the alphabet in which the three-time Caldecott medalist depicts a mysterious transformation of each letter.

Frequently Bought Together

The Z Was Zapped: A Play in Twenty-Six Acts + The Mysteries of Harris Burdick
Price For Both: CDN$ 35.38

  • The Mysteries of Harris Burdick CDN$ 17.69

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Product Details

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Van Allsburg's latest is not an alphabet book but an "alphabet theatre": as its title page proclaims, it is "a play in twenty-six acts, performed by the Caslon Players, written and directed by Mr. Chris Van Allsburg." In it, each letter of the alphabet is shown on a draped curtained stage, undergoing some sort of (usually ominous) transformation. Turning the page reveals the text that spells out the alphabetical event: the A was in an avalanche; the B was badly bitter; the C was cut to ribbons; and so on. This is an original and unusual undertaking, executed with both visual and verbal adroitness. In technique it most resembles Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick; in both books, black pencil is used with remarkable skill to create the richness of texture and shading usually associated with full color. It is perhaps closest to Harris Burdick in ambition as well, in the sense that an imaginative challenge is presented to the reader (here, to come up with a verbal account of the pictured transformation before turning the page to find it). But the imaginative possibilities of the "alphabet theatre" are limited; this alphabet book format is more of an intriguing design element than a way to teach the ABCs. The picture and text that belong to a single letter are not on facing pages. While Van Allsburg's visual ingenuity is in full evidence (among his hauntingly realistic images are the evaporating E and the jittery J), there is both a sinister quality and an stagey dimension to the work. Artistically, a virtuoso performance, but one with an undeniably cold cast. All ages.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 1 Up Returning to the black-and-white medium of conte pencil, Van Allsburg now presents an alphabetical morality play in 26 acts. Each sculptured letter is the subject in an action-packed tableau enacted on a sedately curtained stage. Here is a preview of coming attractions``A was in an Avalanche, B was Badly Bitten, C was Cut to ribbons.'' Children can try to guess what action has occured, thereby increasing their vocabulary and the fun, or they can turn the page and read the text, or better yetdo both. This clever romp resembles old vaudeville theater, with one curious act following the next. The ``Y'' is even yanked offstage by a crook. However, the art reminds one of a still frame from a black-and-white film. In the frame titled ``S was Simply Soaked'' the water hangs in mid-air above the ``S'' as if the projector were shut off in mid-action. There is also a surrealistic quality inherent in the illlustrations. While the younger crowd may be able to guess some of the verbs that Van Allsburg illustrates, this is more an alphabet book for older children, who will enjoy guessing what heinous act is being foisted upon these noble letters. Karen K. Radtke, Milwaukee Public Library
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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4.9 out of 5 stars
4.9 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Library Binding
This is a classic amoung alphabet picture books. I have always loved the simplicity of alphabet books. Sharing them with children is more fun than anything. But Allsburg takes the fun up a notch with exciting illustrations and a witty humorous twist to the traditional alphabet book. Though his drawings are in black and white because they were done in pencil, Allsburg captures the reader and the audience in a refreshing rendition of this beginning reader collection.
As a liesure artist, I find Allsburg's work very refreshing. His illustrations are detailed and realistic. In this particular collection, Allsburg demonstrates mastery in shading and form. I love his illustrations. Any child that loves to draw will be inspired by Allsburg's work.
I also love the way Allsburg's illustrations bait the reader to guess what words are used to describe what is happening to each letter. By strategically placing the words for each illustration on the back, readers are encouraged to say what they think is happening. Dialogue is an exciting way to learn reading. By encouraging this kind of sharing, Allsburg has created an excellent book for children learning to read.
Allsburg is an inspiration to young writers and artists. This is not his first children's book and only adds to an already growing collection of fantastic works. Every teacher, babysitter, storyteller and parent should keep this one handy as well as a pad of paper and plenty of extra pencils. Once you've read The Z Was Zapped you will want to put your hands to work as well.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Alphabet on Stage March 28 2002
Any reader who has encountered the illustrations of Chris Van Allsburg will know they are in for a treat with this ABC book. Each page features one letter of the alphabet rendered by Chris in black and white drawings that are marvellously compelling. On the opposite page is a one line description of what is happening to the letter. For example, the "G" is depicted with leaves and thorns poking out of it, with the phrase on the corresponding page stating "The G was starting to grow."
This book elegantly conveys the entire alphabet with pictures and few words. Despite it's appearance of simplicity, adults may well find this picture book as engaging as children do. I consider this book to be perfect for children learning the alphabet. It's a fundamental part of many of the nursery school classes I have encountered. The large pictures and simple sentences allow large groups of children to see the letters from a distance. After one or two readings, children will be calling out the words before the parent or teacher does. I have yet to encounter a class that doesn't delightfully chime in with "And the Z was finally Zapped!" at the end...
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very good book May 3 2003
By L. Hale
The Z was Zapped is an alphabet book. The book presents the letters in different acts. One act per letter. The book starts out with a picture of the letter of the letter A with rocks falling down around it. You turn the page and the text says "The A was in an avalanche." On the opposite side of the page, there is the picture of the letter B. The picture has the letter B getting bitten by a bear. This format continues through out the whole book. Once you understand how this book is laid out and why it is done this way, the book makes sense. Initially, if you are unaware of why this is happening, it might be somewhat confusing as the pictures do not seem to go with the words. The artwork in this book is fabulous. The pictures are black and white sketches done in pencil. There is an incredible amount of detail in these pictures. Readers will gain some knowledge of new words which the pictures help to clearly illustrate the concept. This is a wonderful book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Director! Director! July 22 1999
By A Customer
Wonderful book! I was able to obtain this book for my three year old son. This book has wonderful illustrations. It is very artisitic. One could frame the illustrations for great wall hangings in the classroom or child's room. The book is inexpensive and worth buying. As I read it to my son, I saw the imaginative world of my son trying to figure out what the next line would read. Even my imagination was stimulated. The author did a good job to bring out a children's book to address the alphabet in such an active book. In a classroom of youngsters, as a future elementary teacher, I saw the potential of this book for activities to use with children. The play shall continue and fill the letters of the alphabet with some personality. What a wonderful way to explore imaginative thought and writing. Kids will put on a play. Teachers !!! Buy it!
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I am a huge fan of Chris Van Allsburg and own several of his books. My son (almost three) is still too young for most of them. This one, however, he enjoys. It's an alphabet book as only Chris Van Allsburg could do it--theatrical, eerie, and lots of fun. Dramatic things happen to each of the letters. The W is warped, the Z is zapped and so forth. Many of the concepts, such as warping and disappearing, are rather abstract, so this is probably not the first alphabet book you want to use with your children. But once you are past the "A is for apple" stage, this book is marvelous. Terrific for vocabulary-building. I've seen it showcased at several teacher conventions.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A favourite of my under 2 year old
Don't let the suggested reading age delay you from purchasing this book. I had it in the book corner of my classroom for my students from age 6 to 8 and my 20 month year old son... Read more
Published on June 9 2009 by Mrs. L. Farquhar
5.0 out of 5 stars splendid!
The illustrations along with the imaginative text left me chuckling and enlightened. I commend Van Allsburg's fantastic use of personification. Read more
Published on Oct. 2 2002 by Michael A. Ciu
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic
Chris Van Allsgurg's wonderful artwork provides clues about what happens to each of the letters of the alphabet in this not-for-beginners alphabet book. Read more
Published on Aug. 9 2001 by "linneajean"
5.0 out of 5 stars not just for children
I was shown this book in a college art class as an example of pencil shading. I fell in love immediately. I bought myself a copy and got one for a fellow artist friend. Read more
Published on March 26 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Teaching Ideas for Chris Van Allsburg Book
This is more than just an alphabet book. Older children love this book. For a fun book innovation using alliteration read The Z was Zapped. Read more
Published on Nov. 25 1999 by Lisann
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully illustrated alphabet book
Chris Van Allsburg had produced another invaluable children's picture book. Each letter depicts an action beginning with it's letter in a fun way. . . Read more
Published on March 26 1999 by Lindsy Baxter (lindsy6@juno.com)
5.0 out of 5 stars When I read Van Allsburg books I read with great pleasure.
This book makes you think about what they're going to say next. I like it because it's kind of mysterious in a way. They had different words to say about each letter. Read more
Published on Nov. 10 1998
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is awesome!
I would recommend this book to people if they like alphabet books and if they want to know what happens next. The Z was Zapped will leave them something to think about. Read more
Published on Nov. 10 1998 by Jeremy L., ablaufer@alaska.net
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