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The Z Was Zapped: A Play in Twenty-Six Acts Hardcover – October 26, 1987

4.5 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Van Allsburg's latest is not an alphabet book but an "alphabet theatre": as its title page proclaims, it is "a play in twenty-six acts, performed by the Caslon Players, written and directed by Mr. Chris Van Allsburg." In it, each letter of the alphabet is shown on a draped curtained stage, undergoing some sort of (usually ominous) transformation. Turning the page reveals the text that spells out the alphabetical event: the A was in an avalanche; the B was badly bitter; the C was cut to ribbons; and so on. This is an original and unusual undertaking, executed with both visual and verbal adroitness. In technique it most resembles Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick; in both books, black pencil is used with remarkable skill to create the richness of texture and shading usually associated with full color. It is perhaps closest to Harris Burdick in ambition as well, in the sense that an imaginative challenge is presented to the reader (here, to come up with a verbal account of the pictured transformation before turning the page to find it). But the imaginative possibilities of the "alphabet theatre" are limited; this alphabet book format is more of an intriguing design element than a way to teach the ABCs. The picture and text that belong to a single letter are not on facing pages. While Van Allsburg's visual ingenuity is in full evidence (among his hauntingly realistic images are the evaporating E and the jittery J), there is both a sinister quality and an stagey dimension to the work. Artistically, a virtuoso performance, but one with an undeniably cold cast. All ages.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 1 Up Returning to the black-and-white medium of conte pencil, Van Allsburg now presents an alphabetical morality play in 26 acts. Each sculptured letter is the subject in an action-packed tableau enacted on a sedately curtained stage. Here is a preview of coming attractions``A was in an Avalanche, B was Badly Bitten, C was Cut to ribbons.'' Children can try to guess what action has occured, thereby increasing their vocabulary and the fun, or they can turn the page and read the text, or better yetdo both. This clever romp resembles old vaudeville theater, with one curious act following the next. The ``Y'' is even yanked offstage by a crook. However, the art reminds one of a still frame from a black-and-white film. In the frame titled ``S was Simply Soaked'' the water hangs in mid-air above the ``S'' as if the projector were shut off in mid-action. There is also a surrealistic quality inherent in the illlustrations. While the younger crowd may be able to guess some of the verbs that Van Allsburg illustrates, this is more an alphabet book for older children, who will enjoy guessing what heinous act is being foisted upon these noble letters. Karen K. Radtke, Milwaukee Public Library
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Hardcover: 56 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (October 26, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395446120
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395446126
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 9.5 x 12.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. A. Davis on August 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Amazing
Black & White Illustrations
(Cleverly
Drawn)
Encourage
Folks to
Guess what
Happens that
Ingeniously
Jeopardizes all
Kinds of
Letters.
Many
Naturally
Observant
People
Quickly
Realize
Some
Talent
Underneath
Van Allsburg's
Warped &
eXceptionally
Youthful
Zeal.
3 Comments 24 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
This is more than just an alphabet book. Older children love this book. For a fun book innovation using alliteration read The Z was Zapped. Brainstorm verbs that begin with each letter of the alphabet. Assign each student a letter. Require each letter to have a sentence such as for letter A: The A was accepted into an association. Title your class's book something like: The Z was Zipped-up. This is a fun way to meet state content standard for alliteration. I have used this idea with 5th and 3rd graders for three years and tied it into many of this author's works. Awesome illustrations!
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Format: Paperback
I am a huge fan of Chris Van Allsburg and own several of his books. My son (almost three) is still too young for most of them. This one, however, he enjoys. It's an alphabet book as only Chris Van Allsburg could do it--theatrical, eerie, and lots of fun. Dramatic things happen to each of the letters. The W is warped, the Z is zapped and so forth. Many of the concepts, such as warping and disappearing, are rather abstract, so this is probably not the first alphabet book you want to use with your children. But once you are past the "A is for apple" stage, this book is marvelous. Terrific for vocabulary-building. I've seen it showcased at several teacher conventions.
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Format: Hardcover
Any reader who has encountered the illustrations of Chris Van Allsburg will know they are in for a treat with this ABC book. Each page features one letter of the alphabet rendered by Chris in black and white drawings that are marvellously compelling. On the opposite page is a one line description of what is happening to the letter. For example, the "G" is depicted with leaves and thorns poking out of it, with the phrase on the corresponding page stating "The G was starting to grow."
This book elegantly conveys the entire alphabet with pictures and few words. Despite it's appearance of simplicity, adults may well find this picture book as engaging as children do. I consider this book to be perfect for children learning the alphabet. It's a fundamental part of many of the nursery school classes I have encountered. The large pictures and simple sentences allow large groups of children to see the letters from a distance. After one or two readings, children will be calling out the words before the parent or teacher does. I have yet to encounter a class that doesn't delightfully chime in with "And the Z was finally Zapped!" at the end...
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Format: Hardcover
The Z was Zapped is an alphabet book. The book presents the letters in different acts. One act per letter. The book starts out with a picture of the letter of the letter A with rocks falling down around it. You turn the page and the text says "The A was in an avalanche." On the opposite side of the page, there is the picture of the letter B. The picture has the letter B getting bitten by a bear. This format continues through out the whole book. Once you understand how this book is laid out and why it is done this way, the book makes sense. Initially, if you are unaware of why this is happening, it might be somewhat confusing as the pictures do not seem to go with the words. The artwork in this book is fabulous. The pictures are black and white sketches done in pencil. There is an incredible amount of detail in these pictures. Readers will gain some knowledge of new words which the pictures help to clearly illustrate the concept. This is a wonderful book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Chris Van Allsburg is an amazing children's author and his illustrations are the best in the business. There are a million "ABC" books out there but this is hands down the best. I bought this for my son when he was four and it literally taught him his "ABC's." He is five now and still loves the book. It is one you can read regularly as a parent and not get sick of.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The best teaching is done by involving the reader. In this book the child tries to guess what happened to each letter of the alphabet by looking at the picture and using the sound that letter makes. My all-time favorite Van Allsburg book is "The Wretched Stone" which warns children about the dangers of too much time spent viewing the TV or computer screen. He does this without ever mentioning or picturing a TV or computer. Children have to figure that out themselves.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have a two and a three yr old, both girls, and they love guessing what happens (it shows the picture on the first page then explains "The K was quietly kidnapped" on the next page) When I first read it, I found some of the letters to be a little on the dark side (k was kidnapped, Q was quartered, D was nearly drowned, etc) and although I hesitated giving it to my kids, it is one of their favorite books.
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