by E. C. Chen
Zebra Ginkgo Group
Back Cover: An updated redesigned twist on the classic alphabet book. Written for kids of all ages, particularly those in early grade school, this clever book explains many of the generally accepted “bad” behaviors in society are. The Bad Alphabet depicts an improper and disagreeable lizard named Lance who participates in an A to Z procession of inappropriate actions. Lance and his multiple animal peers are found in various settings of home, school, and pubic life.With superb professionally illustrated full-color pictures, Lance comes to life in a way that shows why being bad has consequences. Beautifully scripted with rhyming prose, young children who are still malleable, will be focused on the pleasing text, bright colors, and ethical concepts displayed. Social norms and values regarding views on unacceptable conduct are shown so that kids may understand what NOT to do. The Bad Alphabet s a truly fun book that allows kids to know what is “BAD” so they can behave “Good!”
Opening: A Lance the Lizard had a lot of arrogance. He wore his fancy pants from France and pranced around at the dance. Nobody liked him. A IS FOR ARROGANCE
The Bad Alphabet ABC book is not your normal, everyday alphabet book for young children starting to learn the letters of the English language. The ABCs are represented, one per page, with a corresponding word. There is also a story. Lance the lizard is a horrible friend. He is Arrogant, Bites his friends, and Cheats on school tests—and caught by the wise owl teacher.
The left side of the spread announces the letter and then Lance’s story for that letter written in a few short sentences. On the right side is the letter and the main word about Lance’s behavior, which will begin with that letter. Also on the right side, is a large color illustration of Lance misbehaving with his friends or others, such as the wise owl at school who catches Lance cheating.
I am not sure it is a good idea trying to teach young children two concepts—the alphabet and bad behavior—together. Attention spans at this age, 1 to 6, can be very short. Many of the bad behaviors young children will have no knowledge of at such an early age. Arrogance, insulting, nuisance, quarrelling, and using drugs may not be the best subjects for this age group. I am not saying kids should not learn to avoid these bad behaviors, I just think the behaviors should fit the age group. But then, the author stated the intended age of the reader from age 3 to 13, quite a large age range for an ABC book–toddler to middle grade, nearly the entire range for children’s books.
Part of the story, for example letter ‘N,’ designed to give examples of the selected word to help children understand that word, but is written above the reading level of young children. For example, Nuisance:
“N Lance the lizard was a nuisance. He would play the drums with exuberance – the way he disturbed the peace was quite an abhorrence. Nobody liked him.” (underline mine)
I applaud the attempt to think outside the box and give children a story with the alphabet and to use that story to teach unacceptable behaviors in an attempt to help children behave properly. But the letter N, above, is but one example of the words that are above a child’s ability at the learning the ABCs age. Nuisance, exuberance, and abhorrence are terrific words, just not in an ABC book.
The illustrations are indeed composed of “bright colors” and kids will find the illustrations “fun.” I think older kids will enjoy the text and understand the concepts from A to Z, while younger children, those usually needing to learn the alphabet, are too young for some of the content. Physically, the bright yellow cover grabs your attention and Lance the naughty lizard made me wonder what was so bad about the alphabet. The pages are too thin for younger children’s little fingers. It would be easy to tear the pages in an instant and there goes letters G through L.
The Bad Alphabet ABC book has a dual goal that does not work as intended. The words are generally acceptable and largely different from most ABC books. The author was thinking BIG and the result is a book with two good purposes: a brightly colored ABC book for young children, and a manner book for the older child that shows the bad behavior in hopes kids will be disgusted with Lance’s behavior.
The Bad Alphabet is a clever way to teach manners to kids, though older kids may be offended with the use of an ABC book, younger kids may not be able to grasp some of the larger words, and others might see this as a great idea. With some tweaking, it just might work.
Zebra Ginkgo Group website
Released May 1, 2013
Age 3 to 13
THE BAD ALPHABET. Text copyright © 2013 by E. C. Chen. Reproduced by permission of the author.
- review#443 – The Wizard of OZ ABCs by Jeni Wittrock & Timothy Banks (kid-lit-reviews.com)