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The Human Alphabet Hardcover – September 15, 2005

4.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 4–Alphabet books are a dime a dozen, but it's fair to say that this offering by dance company Pilobolus is one of the most striking ones around. As photographed by Kane, the flexible dancers bring posing to a new level. They present the 26 letters and 26 corresponding images, par usual. However, their amazing ability to contort (with the help of some trick photography) induces a startling head rush of impressions. Some of the photos, such as L for Ladder, M for Mirror, and Z for Zipper, are quite clever. Others, frankly, are creepy–an overwhelming mess of bodies. Translating the fluid choreography of what is an obviously athletic dance troupe into still photography doesn't always work. Children may well have to consult the key to identify a good number of the images. All that said, The Human Alphabet is an extraordinarily inventive interpretation of what is becoming an overworked genre. Children, with their wonderfully open minds, will accept it for what it is–an alphabet book with bendy people. A must-have only if your alphabet collection needs beefing up, or if yoga is highly popular in your community.–Kara Schaff Dean, Needham Public Library, MA
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Review

Kirkus Reviews
 
The acclaimed American dance troupe Pilobolus uses their extraordinary talents of balance, flexibility and strength to convey the alphabet. Like most alphabet books, the letters are depicted in upper case accompanied by a noun that begins with that letter, such as B for butterfly. The main difference here is that every letter and its noun is formed by twisting, contorting humans. The letters themselves are unique, sometimes verging on ingenious. It’s the accompanying photos that are extremely difficult. They range from ponderous to impossible. They are all so abstract that the young reader they are meant to instruct, though perhaps amazed at the dancer’s bendablity, cannot possibly puzzle out what the letter stands for. Thankfully, there is a code breaker included—otherwise the mystery, in some cases, might never be cracked. The letter N for nest, for example, is still baffling even after one looks up the answer. While the talent and ingenuity of Pilobolus can be applauded, their efforts will be lost on the intended audience. (alphabet key) (Picture book. 3+)
 
Publishers Weekly
 
The dance troupe Pilobolus favors bold, acrobatic combinations of folding and unfolding bodies--just the right group to literally form the letters of the alphabet. Dressed in jewel-colored leotards and presented against a white backdrop, 14 dancers take turns being the legs of a K, the curving tail of a J or the angles of an N . Each page features the smaller picture of a posed letter, and a larger picture in which the group creates an image whose name begins with that letter--unlabeled, so children can guess what the picture portrays. Some depend on shrunken or manipulated images (the yo-yo for Y depicts a dancer holding a string from which a tiny image of two other dancers curled around each other dangles). The best, though, use simple, unaltered groups of figures: a Dinosaur (two dancers balanced on a third to form the body of a Tyrannosaurus rex, the topmost with hands outstretched claw-wise, a delighted snarl on her face), a Giant (one dancer on another's shoulders, the feet of the lower one sticking out from a huge black coat), and a Mirror, with two dancers opposite each other, viewer and her reflection, with just their index fingers touching. A list of answers appears in the back in case some elude the reader--although few will. The endpapers, which reproduce all the posed letters in one spread, are the most charming of all (especially the tiny baby that acts as the tail of the Q). Ages 3-7.
 
School Library Journal
 
Kindergarten-Grade 4–Alphabet books are a dime a dozen, but it's fair to say that this offering by dance company Pilobolus is one of the most striking ones around. As photographed by Kane, the flexible dancers bring posing to a new level. They present the 26 letters and 26 corresponding images, par usual. However, their amazing ability to contort (with the help of some trick photography) induces a startling head rush of impressions. Some of the photos, such as L for Ladder, M for Mirror, and Z for Zipper, are quite clever... The Human Alphabet is an extraordinarily inventive interpretation of what is becoming an overworked genre. Children, with their wonderfully open minds, will accept it for what it is–
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 2 - 6 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 1
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press; First Edition edition (September 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596430664
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596430662
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 0.4 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #740,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bought this for my almost 6 year-old grandson after he'd seen them perform and he loved it. So did his 8 & 9 year-old sisters because it's more than beautiful pictures and an alphabet book. It's also a puzzle.
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There isn't much about Pilobolus for young children besides this book. My students enjoyed trying to figure out what they were posing as. They chose somewhat advanced sounds/words for their examples. Circus was depicted for the C. The G is a soft g(j) - giant. They made 2 eyes for the E page.

It's very colorful and entertaining though.
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Kids just love the book, there are so many ways to engage with it - guessing the words, looking at what is happening in the the images, learning the letter and its sound, making the letters with our bodies. I got it when my older was 3 or so and she still loves to go over it now when she is almost 5...
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This is really a very intriguing look at the alphabet. It reminds me of the Cirque de Solel troup arranging themselves in the alphabetical form. A great book for children to visually enjoy. I would say this is for K-2nd grade children to enjoy. A very colorful book.
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By dsnyderuk on February 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Inspiring, surprising, wonderous. I saw these guys on the Academy Awards a couple of years ago and was really dazzled by how inventive and smart they were. This book is proof of that - great for any parent who wants to inspire their child.
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A wonderful book for children. It is fun when they understand that people are making the shapes. You might want to discuss what a leotard is. A great book to share.
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