kellyrfineman (kellyrfineman) wrote,

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The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Gris Grimly

WARNING: The book review you are about to read is about a picture book called The Dangerous Alphabet, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Gris Grimly. Readers familiar with the work of either gentleman will immediately understand how dangerous the alphabet can be in the hands of either. (In the past, I've reviewed Coraline and The Wolves in the Wall as well as Interworld by Neil Gaiman (both for children), as well as Now We Are Sick, a poetry anthology for adults edited by Gaiman.) Grimly is the illustrator of a number of picture books, not all of which are exactly for children. Possibly the best-known book containing his illustrations is the Halloween classic, Boris and Bella, by Carolyn Crimi.

The Dangerous Alphabet contains a warning of its own:
A piratical ghost story in thirteen ingenious by potentially disturbing rhyming couplets, originally conceived as a confection both to amuse and to entertain by Mr. Neil Gaiman, scrivener, and then doodled, elaborated upon, illustrated, and beaten soundly by Mr. Gris Grimly, etcher and illuminator, featuring two brave children, their diminutive but no less courageous gazelle, and a large number of extremely dangerous trolls, monsters, bugbears, creatures, and other such nastinesses, many of which have perfectly disgusting eating habits and ought not, under any circumstances, to be encouraged.

Please Note: The alphabet, as given in this publication, is not to be relied upon and has a dangerous flaw that an eagle-eyed reader may be able to discern.

The book begins "A is for Always, that's where we embark." The illustration shows the children setting off in a bathtub and fish-bones sort of boat into what appears to be the sewers of an older city. The next two-page spread looks just like this:

The alphabet continues along in its usual order for quite some time, with somre rather dire prognostications in the text and dire depictions in the illustrations. For instance, there's "G is for Good, as in hero, and morning; H is for 'Help me!' -- a cry, and a warning".
Whereas the I page reads "I am the author who scratches these rhymes", we find later in the book that U is used as shorthand for the second-person pronoun: "U are the reader who shivers with dread; W's warnings went over your head". If you just hollered "hey wait! that's out of order!", then I believe you are the sort of eagle-eyed reader who will understand why using this book to learn the alphabet is a dangerous thing.

I am assured by my friend Jeff (geophyrd) that this book is a huge hit with the younger set, as he and his young son have been enjoying repeated readings of the book on a nightly basis of late. Fans of Gaiman's and/or Grimly's will want to pick this one up for sure. Folks interested in a twisty take on abecediaries are sure to want it as well. And you won't be disappointed.
Tags: book reviews, gaiman, grimly, picture books
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