The Z Was Zapped: A Play in Twenty-Six Acts Hardcover – Oct 26 1987
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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...
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.
Most recent customer reviews
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 morePublished on June 9 2009 by Mrs. L. Farquhar
The illustrations along with the imaginative text left me chuckling and enlightened. I commend Van Allsburg's fantastic use of personification. Read morePublished on Oct. 2 2002 by Michael A. Ciu
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 morePublished on Aug. 9 2001
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 morePublished on March 26 2000
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 morePublished on Nov. 25 1999 by Lisann
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 morePublished on March 26 1999 by Lindsy Baxter (email@example.com)
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 morePublished on Nov. 10 1998