Saturday, October 31, 2009


Merriam, E.  (1987).  Spooky ABC.  New York:  Simon & Schuster.


Spooky ABC is a Halloween alphabet book.  Each letter features a dark illustration by Lane Smith and a poem by Eve Merriam about a supernatural creature or object.

I liked the illustrations.  They were done in Smith's usual style, if not featuring some more dark colors.  They do have some potential to scare some.

When it comes to themed alphabet books, I'm always entertained by how authors come up with words for some of the most difficult letters.  In this book's case, I feel like choosing "Yeast" for the letter Y was a bit of a tragic fail.  I suppose when yeast is described as "rise rise, seethe spread, fuss fume, foam spume, spread and spread" it could be vaguely creepy.  But only vaguely.  On the plus side, when yeast is included in an alphabet book, it'll most likely provoke the question "what is yeast?"  Sciency teaching moment!  Hope you have some yeast around for a demonstration.

I was also interested that Smith created the illustrations first before Merriam was chosen to write poetry to match them.  But a few of the illustrations were later changed to match the poems Merriam came up with.  Smith had originally planned the illustration for Y to be a Yeti.  Why oh why didn't he fight for Yeti?

Personally, I wasn't too fond of Merriam's poetry.  It often felt like the various poems were just thrown together quickly instead of being well crafted.  Sometimes there's a lot of fun with assonance and alliteration, but not always.  Sometimes there's rhyming.  But not always.

I also consider myself to not be an overly crazy or unreasonable person when it comes to books that challenge religious norms, in fact I encourage ideas that challenge dominant world views.  But the poem for the letter D, "Demon" did make me a little uncomfortable.  In it demons dance and cast a spell to call up the devil.  The poem includes the following lines:

"Make this spot
infernally hot,
put your hate in,

While it's meant in fun, it did make me a little uncomfortable.  I'd still be willing to keep Spooky ABC in my classroom though.  


Now, this is not a book intended for actual struggling readers who are still trying to get a grasp on the significance of the various letters.  Spooky ABC is better used as a Halloween treat for older readers who could write their own spooky poems in response.
Quotes of Note:
"Why do the curtains blow?
What do the floorboards know?"
don't know know
your head is hollow,
you're missing teeth,
you've got no brains
and nothing underneath."

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