Monster's Reviews > The Dangerous Alphabet

The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman
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Jun 21, 2010

bookshelves: scary-books-for-kids

Neil Gaiman’s picture books shine when they are paired with the art of extraordinary illustrators, and The Dangerous Alphabet succeeds on Gris Grimly’s sinister illustrations. Gaiman provides a witty introduction and thirteen rhyming couplets that provide some original, alliterative, and ominous interpretations of what each letter stands for (M is for Mirrors you’ll stare in forever/N is for Night, and for Nothing and Never). It’s not much to hang a story on, but Grimly fleshes the tale out into a disturbing adventure with a sepia-toned Dickensian setting, of two children and their pet gazelle attempt to survive a treasure hunting trip though an underground river surrounded by monsters and villains.

Grimly packs a lot into each illustration, too. Careful examination shows that he has managed to incorporate, fairly unobtrusively, items that begin with the same letter that appears on the page (the letter Y includes a yield sign with a yak on it, for instance) Casually flipping through the pages of this book will leave readers unsatisfied, but those willing to take the time to sort through Gaiman’s mixed up alphabet and closely examine Grimly’s detailed (and very creepy) drawings, are in for a gruesome delight. While the age range for this book is 4-8, I suspect that most kids that young won’t “get” the story. Kids who enthusiastically gobbled up Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, though, will probably love it and might even share it with Edward Gorey-loving parents. Recommended as an upper-elementary parent/child read aloud, as a choice for fans of Neil Gaiman and Gris Grimly, for public library children’s collections, and for elementary and middle school library media centers.

Contains: zombies, child kidnapping and imprisonment, implied cannibalism, and a variety of creepy creatures.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski.
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