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December 7, 2011

New Books: E-mergency

When you talk about letter books, you usually mean ABC books, a genre for very young kids that could probably keep the board-book publishing industry in business all by itself. E-mergency!, however, is a letter book for somewhat older children, with a plot and a lesson beyond the basics of what in the alphabet goes where.

Its premise is that all the letters, from A to Z, live together in a big house. When E trips on the stairs one day and is injured, it's determined that she needs a bit of R&R to recover, so O steps in for her in all her words—with confusing results that will be particularly funny to elementary-school kids with the alphabet firmly under their belts. (Part of the fun—as well as the book's educational point—is that this couldn't have happened to a more important letter, since, as a nifty chart on the book's last page shows, E is by far the most frequently used letter in the English language, as well as many others.)

The book, full of clever wordplay (letter-play?) in multiple asides on every page, is all the more astounding for being the brainchild of 14-year-old Ezra Fields-Meyer, whose was diagnosed with high-functioning autism as a toddler. His short animated video "Alphabet House" (shown below) came to the attention of veteran children's-book illustrator Tom Lichtenheld, who loved the concept and adapted it. The end product does stand out among the work of writers many mulitiples of Fields-Meyer's age—for being better than a good portion of it.





[Cover image courtesy of Chronicle Books]

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