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The Dangerous Alphabet Paperback – July 27, 2010

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten and up
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1 Reprint edition (July 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060783354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060783358
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 9.6 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 3–5—A sophisticated, interactive alphabet tale in which even the letters break the expected pattern. Thirteen rhyming couplets spin the story of two siblings and their pet gazelle who sneak past their father, board a small boat, and follow a stream into a mysterious underworld to search for a treasure. Skillful narrative and visual storytelling combine to present a complex adventure that unravels through multilayered text and illustrations, challenging readers to ponder the numerous levels of plot. When the sister is tempted ashore by villains holding candy and captured, her brother follows in hot pursuit, rushing through a labyrinth realm filled with pirates, monsters, trolls, and other fearsome creatures. Youngsters can mull over questions about the nature of the treasure seeking (the cache turns out to be pretty unappealing) and why W precedes V in the alphabet sequence ("warnings" before "vile deeds"). The gothic illustrations, done in sepia tones and faded color washes, ensure that readers remain riveted throughout the story, since there are spine-chilling details at every turn. Images of objects beginning with the letter featured on the page add to the fun. This is the right book for those who find satisfaction and pleasure in creepy and sinister tales.—Susannah Richards, Eastern Connecticut State University, Willimantic, CT
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Our journey begins on the title page, as two Victorian children and pet gazelle slip away from their father, treasure map in hand, and embark on an alphabetical path through a sewer populated with every sort of ghoul, only to emerge safe at home at the end. Following the “A is for … ” format, Gaiman’s text takes the form of 13 tight, evocative rhyming couplets, hand-lettered by Grimley. Page turns divide each couplet, moving the action forward and building the sense of mystery. The illustrations do double duty, telling the children’s story and filling each letter’s page with suitably ghastly, nominal matter. There’s some disturbing stuff on display (the sewer walls are lined with children bound in chains, straitjackets, and rusty manacles), but the character of the pictures, spiky and knobby and childlike, and a palette of beiges accented by muted pastels, mitigates the creepiness. In the end, Gaiman and Grimley have combined forces to produce an acrid, gothic confection that bubbles with vitriol and wit. Grades 1-4. --Thom Barthelmess --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

I make things up and write them down. Which takes us from comics (like SANDMAN) to novels (like ANANSI BOYS and AMERICAN GODS) to short stories (some are collected in SMOKE AND MIRRORS) and to occasionally movies (like Dave McKean's MIRRORMASK or the NEVERWHERE TV series, or my own short film A SHORT FILM ABOUT JOHN BOLTON).

In my spare time I read and sleep and eat and try to keep the blog at more or less up to date.

Customer Reviews

Older children will love it.
A Customer
Gris Grimly's illustrations bring the story to life, and really add an element of almost the grotesque to the story.
David Edmonds
Talking Points Just so you know, THE DANGEROUS ALPHABET isn't really a book for small children.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

88 of 91 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Let me start by saying that I'm not sure I like this book. No, I like it. But my daughter doesn't. And she's the target age. Dangerous Alphabet is one of those hybrid books which are written for children, but which have a much older, more sardonic sense of humour in mind. Gaiman, a master of macabre, specialises in this. So while my five year old made me stop reading because she was "already getting nightmares and she hadn't even gone to bed yet", my ten year old absolutely loved it and kept trying to read it to his younger sister, despite her attempts to get him to stop and take that "horrible book away."

If you buy it for a child that is of picture book age, you may well have a similar scenario. This is, as the title suggests, an alphabet book. But forget about sweet glittery things. A may be for "always", but the youngsters that enter this sewer of horrors soon discover that "E's for the evil that lures and entices", and "F is for Fear and its many devices". There are muffled screams, pies cooked with human looking bones, chained up children, piracy, skulls, vile deeds, and lots of monsters. In short, as is his wont, Gaiman has tapped into the psyche to produce a terrifying trip through an amusement park horror show.

It's also extremely funny, in a black, gruesome way. Older children will love it. There is a little mix-up on the alphabet which children will feel good pointing out, and even a kind of happy ending as the boat comes through the tunnel to the letter Z, though I struggled to convince my daughter of that. The watercolour and ink illustrations are superb - incredibly detailed, with nightmarishly surreal imagery on every page.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Arienette Cervantes on May 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Oh this is so good.
Its written the way that nightmares are supposed to be recorded. I mean-its an alphabet book for someone who is well aware of how the alphabet works. Its reminiscent of 'The Gashlycrumb Tinies' but this is creative and new in is own right. And none of the characters die.
You could almost expect to see this organized as poetry -although the illustrations really bring the language to life. very compatible-Gaiman and Grimly.
My favorite page is 'B is for Boat, pushing off in the dark'(the barbed wire and the vulture and the sense that these awful things are preferable to drifting into the darkness).
You kind of get lost in the story...Made aware that the author is no longer Neil Gaiman but a tree monster with sprawling roots and draped in a chains ('I am the author who scratches these rhymes')
This is taunting and relentless-unlike many "scary" books for children these days; this one does not bring comfort in the end...maybe indifference...definetely not comfort.
This is a little grim. But it is so fun.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Mr. P. on May 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
For my young niece's (she is four now, and proud of it) birthday, I decided that what she truly needed in her life was an Alphabet Book. The child has been pestering her mother to learn how to read for nearly two years now, and so I believed it to be my solemn duty to provide her with a Book from Which To Learn. I turned to author Neil Gaiman for aid in this matter, and upon her birthday delivered to her the Dangerous Alphabet.

I am a novice uncle. I do not know what little children enjoy; were it nephews I would buy them Ninja Turtles, but I am confused and frightened by My Little Pony. Literature is the ground that I retreat to, and I am lucky that my niece is a child of learning who enjoys reading.

She loves The Dangerous Alphabet. It is one of her Favourite Books, which means that soon enough she will not have to know how to read it, because she will have Memorized the thing from the repetition of her parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents reading and re-reading the book to her.

If this is not the kind of book that you want your child to read (I can't imagine why, do you not like children? Do you not believe in Whimsy?) then I would recommend that you get it anyway. You might not want your child reading it, but your child certainly will want to read it.

For those of you who enjoy such things, and would like a book that you can enjoy along with your child, then I heartily recommend this most Dangerous of Alphabets to you.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Elmore Hammes on August 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is hard for me to give anything by Gaiman less than 4 or 5 stars, but this one just doesn't cut it. Maybe if it had been intended for 8 and above rather than the suggested 4 to 8 age range - but as done, it is way too macabre for the audience.

The couplets forming the text of the book are not all as sharp as I would expect from the talented writer - and if you just read them straight through, they don't form the complete picture as a poem that they should. The story is jagged and incomplete.

The drawings by Gris Grimly are superior, but also way off base for younger children. Each page is filled with gruesome details, some are fine and even fun to spy - such as a worm coming out of an apple or bones revealed by an x-ray machine. But others include blood coming from the wrists of a child manacled to a wall, children in stew pots and chained by their necks.

While I think older children - those able to more clearly distinguish fantasy from reality - and adults can enjoy this book, I would not give it to a child under 8 or 9. This alphabet is just a tad too dangerous for the wee ones.
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