Take Away the A by Michael Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo

Anyone who thinks that they are well past the age for reading alphabet books really ought to check out the new breed of picture books that use the alphabet as a point of departure to convey creative and sophisticated ideas. Leading the pack are Oliver Jeffers’s Once Upon an Alphabet, and this delightful Alphabeast.

The basic concept behind Take Away the A would be familiar to anyone who enjoys word games like Scrabble or Boggle, where you become acutely aware of the role that every letter plays, since the presence or absence of any one letter can make or break your score. And, of course, a single letter is enough to alter a word and its meaning entirely.

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The cover itself gives a hint of what’s in store inside, as the book opens with the author informing us that without the ‘A’, the BEAST is the BEST; and without the ‘B’, the BRIDE goes for a RIDE, etc. But the wordplay here is just one aspect of the book’s brilliance when you (literally) look at the big picture and realise how the ingenious illustrations make sense of the words for each letter spread — almost telling stories of their own. Thus, there’s nothing incidental or convenient about how the words have been paired, with the results ranging from wacky and whimsical to thoughtful and even quietly poetic.

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A fun and witty book that can be used to introduce kindergarten or older kids to simple wordplay and inspire them to come up with their own iterations.

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