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The Z Was Zapped
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The Z Was Zapped

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  1,445 ratings  ·  175 reviews
A dramatic black-and-white presentation of the alphabet in which the two-time Caldecott Medalist depicts a mysterious transformation of each letter.
Paperback, 56 pages
Published October 26th 1998 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published 1987)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,028)
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This was an excellent book, made especially so by the illustrations. Great for all ages, it has something even the adults will love. The pictures are kind of goth and creepy which kept me interested, and my preschoolers loved guessing which letter the picture showed. My 5 yr old who is in first grade loved trying to guess what verb that began with that letter, was happening to the letter before I turned the page. Overall a great education and fun read for all.
Oct 20, 2008 Lara's rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Parents and children 2yrs-5yrs
Shelves: picture-books
Synopsis : Something is a foot within the Alphabet Theater! A dramatic portrayal in twenty-six acts, with moments both poignant and painful. This production is sure to capture the attention of all who experience it. With strong associations between words and letters. Could this be an alphabet book in disguise?
Review : Presented in classic theater style, Chris Van Allsburg creates a world of familiar ABC characters that are going through some tough, frightening times. The "A" is being over run by
The Z was Zapped” is another surreal book from the creative mind of Chris Van Allsburg, the well-known author of “Jumanji.” In this book, the Alphabet Theatre introduces a play where all twenty-six letters of the alphabet are somehow involved in some kind of unfortunate mishap. “The Z was Zapped” will surely be an instant treat for children who want to learn the alphabet in a more creative way.

Chris Van Allsburg has done a magnificent job on both the writing and the illustrations in this book.
Melissa Long
At first glance, it is easy to see that this book was made in a portrait format. I believe this is because the book is acting as if you are watching a stage performance; therefore, each illustration acts as the actor and calls for a portrait style view. Another interesting aspect of the book is that all of the illustrations are in black and white. I believe this was done to create a more serious mood for the reader as well as express a certain level of creepiness and darkness. The font is also v ...more
Shanna Gonzalez
This alphabet book is quite a unique production; each letter appears on the right-hand side of the book, then when the page is turned a brief bit of text is given: "The A was in an Avalanche," "The B was badly bitten," and so on. This lends a bit of a wordless-book experience, since the image must be interpreted before the text is read.

It is rendered in black-and-white charcoal, and unlike most alphabet books, the scene never shifts, but their presentation is called "a Play in 26 acts." The arti
Oct 02, 2013 Dolly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is a dramatic and entertaining alphabet book that engages your brain as you try to imagine the narrative that goes with each picture. The alphabet is presented in '26 Acts,' with each letter on one page in a scene that is explained on the reverse side of the page.

We had a blast guessing what the words would be and we had lots of laughs over the images and the narrative. The 'play' has a bit of a film-noir theme, with black and white images and dangerous themes. Overall, it's a fun and shor
Jordan Santoro
This unique "alphabet" book was clever and fun to read. The black-and-white (pencil) drawn illustrations are impressing, mostly because of their ability to convey texture, depth, and fine detail. Chris Van Allsburg include an illustration of each single letter of the alphabet (in 26 "acts") undergoing some type of strange change on a page. Following this page is a short explanation on the next page about the previously shown letter (such as: "The F was firmly flattened"). The alliteration, the i ...more
Giselle Avina
In terms of alphabet books, I found this one to be highly entertaining and hilarious. The book goes through each letter of the alphabet, and something unpleasant ends up happening to each letter! For example, the D was drowned, the N was nailed, and the Z was zapped. The illustrations are funny and I found my self eagerly turning to the next page to see what happens to the next letter. The one thing I found a little irritating, however, was the location of the text. The text for each picture was ...more
This was such a fun ABC book! The way that the book is laid out makes it a great vocabulary builder, a fun guessing game, and an entertaining excercise in observation and creative thinking. The kids had a ball trying to figure what actions were happening to the letters in this book. They usually aren't all that wild about ABC books, but this one is right up there with their favorites (Superhero ABC, and just about any ABC book by Jerry Pallotta). I had a lot of fun with it, too, and the pictures ...more
This is a beautifully-done alphabet book. Presented as "A Play In Twenty-Six Acts," this picture book illustrates the tragic event that occurs to each letter of the alphabet during its turn onstage, then on the reverse side of the page explains what happened, capitalizing the letter and the illustrated incident that also begins with that letter. For example, "The A was in an Avalanche" and "The B was badly Bitten." Often, as in the page of the letter B, there is another word in the sentence that ...more
Gerron Butchcoe
“The Z was Zapped” is a picture book by Chris van Allsburg that tells the alphabet and the illustrations show what is happening to the letter. For example, “The Z was Zapped” has an illustration of lightning striking the letter Z.
I found this book to be very enjoyable through the illustrations, and I think that beginning readers can find this book to be very beneficial. It introduces young children to not just the alphabet, but descriptive words to help enhance their vocabulary. They read the s
Shannon Alexander
"The Z Was Zapped" is an alphabet book of sorts, with each page containing a letter of the alphabet with something bad happening to it, like A being covered in an avalanche and Z being zapped. I enjoyed the simple and clean illustrations. I did not enjoy, however, that the words on each page did not correspond with the image on that same page. The words described what happened to the previous letter. I think that could be very confusing to a young child who hasn't quite mastered the alphabet and ...more
Sandra Ayala
The Z was Zapped is an alphabet book for young children. Each letter is was its own illustration drawn in black and white because it is a little bit of an illustrative trade mark for Chris Van Allsburg. However each letter has some sort of action that happens to it that. Each action that happens starts with the same letter with the letter on the page, for example A was in an Avalanche, B was Bitten. However each illustration is drawn in a dark light and makes the book seem ominous. This is a fun ...more
Nicole Thompson
this is a good book for younger children because it brings into account different letters and associating them to different words; however, the illustrations and tone of the book may not be appropriate. this book goes through each letter of the alphabet and talks about something happening to the letter. hence the name: "the z was zapped."
Chris Van Allsburg always comes up with something unusual that appeals to kids and adults of all ages. He has done that once again with this intriguing black and white alphabet book.
Inspired Kathy
I loved this alphabet book. I had fun trying to see if I could guess what was happening to each letter. The A was in an avalanche. The B was badly bitten, etc.
Mitzy Rodriguez
Is a dramatic alphabet book with vivid words describing each letter. Chris Van Allsburg makes the story very dramatic and exciting at the same time. Each letter goes through a different disaster that corresponds with what letter from the alphabet they are. The illustrations are in black and white but are done with great detail and give off a dark exciting feel. A book like this would be likely to be placed inside a kindergarten class where children are learning the alphabet. Also students are be ...more
Emily Farnschlader
This book is an alphabet book. There is a black and white picture with the letter and something happening to it. The next page has a sentence that explains what was happening to the letter, using alliteration. An example sentence is, "The F was firmly flattened." This is done for every letter of the alphabet.
This book could be helpful while students are learning the alphabet. They can practice making the sounds that the letter makes. While reading the book, the kids can try to guess what coul
Joanne G.
Many years ago (1988), I was a mother of a toddlers and was knee-deep in primary colors, silly jingles, and diapers (nice visual, huh?). The tots and I were frequent visitors to our public library which was only a short walk from our home. We left laden with bags of books each time. In fact, our library instituted a check-out limit (25 books per card) because of our family, but that only meant that we had to visit every other day instead of every third or fourth.

Anyhoo, out of all of the hundre
Chelsea Gail Smith
The Z was Zapped by Chris Van Allsburg is a fun interpretation on teaching the alphabet. What struck me at first was written on the first page was, "The Alphabet Theatre Proudly Presents The Z Was Zapped A Play in Twenty- Six Acts". Right off the bat I knew that this was going to be written like a play in some way. I thought this would be perfect for children because a play is very familiar to them. The first page starts out with just a picture of a capital A with rocks falling on top of it. Whe ...more
Big Fat Hen. By Keith Baker. Jan 1999. 31 p. Harcourt. $14.15. ISBN: 978-0-613-15736-0. Grades K-3.
Keith Baker's Big Fat Hen is a counting book based on the timeless rhyme “One two, buckle my shoe”. In this colorfully illustrated book, readers are encouraged to count eggs and chicks along with the mother hen. Readers then count the big fat hen's friends and finally count all of the hens' eggs and chicks. Big Fat Hen helps children practice counting to ten as well as offers the challenge of coun
Olivia Lavelle
The Z was Zapped by Chris Van Allsburg happens to be a vert unique book. It was an alphabet book that ran into twenty-six mishaps before reaching the zapped Z. When I opened the first page it was just the letter A with rocks falling over it. I immediately thought the reader was going to have to make inferences throughout the twenty-six letters. I was partially wrong because as we flipped the page the illustrated text was behind each picture. I wonder why Chris Van Allsburg set the book up to be ...more
The stage is set for a unique theatrical production in this unconventional alphabet book. Detailed black and white pencil illustrations transport the reader to the vaudeville-like stage of the “Alphabet Theatre.” In a play of twenty-six acts (one for each member of the alphabet), each letter experiences a character specific circumstance. As the title relays, the Z is zapped while other letters endure such conditions as being bitten, hidden, overgrown, and uprooted. The illustration for each act ...more
The Z Was Zapped is a really interesting and innovative alphabet book. The book is very plainly laid out, and the illustrations are black and white drawings. Despite the simplistic style of the book, the illustrations are detailed and the vocabulary within the text is rich and descriptive. This book would be a perfect read-aloud book for younger students, since many would find the vocabulary challenging.
Although I really enjoyed reading this book (and the children I read it to also enjoyed it)
Xiaoxiao Zhu
Oh, this picturebook just used the dramatic black-and-white presentation. It's amazing! I don't understand that will children receive this picturebook without colors? But I think it a little bit different because this book's content looks like a story, a dark story. After finishing reading this book, I feel a little bit sad and heart-struck because this progress is too cruel and dark. Though I like black-and-white abstract pictures, it is not very suitable for children to read from my view. Chil ...more
Jessica Rawden
Contrary to my teacher's love, the letter K was not my favorite! My Slis 571 class briefly discussed this book, but I wanted to pick it up a second time in order to study the pencil/charcoal drawings the book offers. First off, I love the subtitle--a play in 26 acts. To set the book up like a play was a great idea. Secondly, I enjoyed the black and white--it made for a nice change-up, and actually works for this book. That being said, I feel like this book would be better for an early reader tha ...more
Lorrie L.  Birchall
Something happens to each letter of the alphabet in this hauntingly illustrated alphabet book. From a teaching perspective, one of the best features of this book is its format. Each letter illustration is on one page, with the accompanying text on the back. For example, the first page shows the letter A on stage with large boulders falling down on top of it. The reader must turn the page in order to read the text," The A was in an Avalanche." The final picture shows the letter Z getting struck b ...more
Bailee Sanders
This is a story that I think children would love to experience. This teaches the alphabet in a way that is interactive because it allows the students to guess what word will represent the letter. This could help with sounds as well. Many of the letters also have a phrase with them that begins with the same letter. This could be a great time to explain alliteration or describing words
ABC Book: Chris Van Allsburg did not disappoint in this fun alphabet book. Cleverly written the form of a theatrical production, each letter is present to the reader in the some type of predicament. The reader can try to guess how the author describes the letter’s situation on the following page in a simple sentence. Even though the author crafted each description using alliteration, this is not your typical “A” is for apple alphabet book. Instead, the read finds the “A” in an avalanche, the “K” ...more
I really enjoyed this book. I had never heard of it before but the picture on the cover caught my eye. I was surprised to find that it was an ABC book because I always thought Chris Van Allsburg wrote more challenging books for older kids. Now that I’ve read this book I would suggest it to any parent or teacher who is trying to teach their child or class the alphabet. One thing I love about this book is that it shows you the picture before the text so you can really look at it and try to guess f ...more
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Chris was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on June 18, 1949, the second child of Doris Christiansen Van Allsburg and Richard Van Allsburg. His sister Karen was born in 1947.

Chris’s paternal grandfather, Peter, owned and operated a creamery, a place where milk was turned into butter, cream, cottage cheese, and ice cream. It was named East End Creamery and after they bottled the milk (and made the ot
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