A is for Musk Ox is unlike any other alphabet book.

A is for Musk OxMuskOx

Picture Book

Ages 3-7

Written by Erin Cabatingan

Illustrated by Matthew Myers

36 pages

Roaring Brook




It’s clear from the title that A is for Musk Ox is not a typical alphabet book. Generally an alphabet book’s purpose is to teach children the alphabet while familiarizing them with the sounds the letters make and some common words that represent each letter. There are, however, alphabet books for children who already know their letters and will find great amusement in playing with the sounds and mixing up the order of things. This is just such a book. And though a similar concept was used in another title published earlier in 2012 (see this Publisher’s Weekly article), A is for Musk Ox is unlike any other alphabet book.

This is Erin Cabatingan’s first book and I hope she continues to create. She’s clever, has a great sense of humor and there’s an easy and relaxed style about her writing.

Matthew Myers’s sumptuously rich oil paintings are spirited and immensely appealing; his charismatic animals are full of expression. His first book, Tyrannosaurus Dad—featuring a forty foot tall, necktie-wearing, dinosaur dad—was well received. This is his second book and I look forward to seeing more from him as well.


Musk ox has chewed a hole right through the cover of the book so that he can be seen through the apple, which should be representing the first letter of the alphabet. So before readers even open the book it’s clear that musk ox wants to be the star of the show. And he is.


Musk ox’s friend Zebra is rightfully upset and accuses him of ruining the book, but musk ox claims to have saved it instead. He points out how boring and cliché it is to start an alphabet book with an apple.

MuskOx2 1

And he’s right, but musk ox does not start with A. Awesome does though, and musk oxen are awesome! (After reading this book, I completely agree.)

C is for musk ox because they are cool. “Also, we live in Canada, too.”


G is for musk ox because they eat grass, F is for their fur. There are a few exceptions in which a letter does not stand for musk ox, i.e., “J is for Joseph” because the musk ox’s name is Joseph. And because he feels guilty about how the book started, he allows M to stand for Apple. It was a McIntosh, after all.


Every word that was planned to represent a letter of the alphabet is quickly replaced by something related to musk oxen.


Though each word is now covered with a label identifying musk ox’s preferred term, part of the original word is still visible. The illustrations also include an image of what the letter originally stood for, allowing young readers to figure out the partially hidden word.


This type of narrative is an excellent way to engage and challenge children; it gives them an opportunity to guess the word that originally represented each letter. If their guess is incorrect it offers a chance for adults to guide children on how to pick up on clues. If children guess the word correctly it enables them to be in on the joke.

A is for Musk Ox is not only a worthy addition to the vast canon of alphabet books but also a standout picture book that will endure the test of multiple readings.


View on Powell’s

View on Amazon


11 Responses so far

  1. 1

    I checked this book out of the library Monday after reading your review. My son read it on the bus on the way home and he got a kick out of the book. We loved the book. Thanks for reviewing the book, otherwise, I doubt that I would have ever seen it.

  2. 3

    So cute! I’m going to look this one up for sure.

  3. 4

    traedz said,

    This book looks like it would challenge young learners and the pictures are fantastic. I look forward to seeing more of your reviews.

  4. 5

    Maurie said,

    This sounds like such a fun book. I’ve e-mailed the review to my sister-in-law. I think my youngest nephew would have a lot of fun with it!

  5. 6

    uberdish said,

    Love this! I need this one for my library 🙂

  6. 7

    This looks like a most excellent musk ox!

  7. 8

    girlproducer said,

    In the end does it say Z is for Zebra? Seems like it would. I like it’s creativeness like If You Give A Moose A Muffin.

  8. 10

    Aurora said,

    It is fun to see people trying to make a new twist on alphabet books lately. My favorite one I’ve seen recently is “Bad Kitty” by Nick Bruel.

Comment RSS

Comments are closed.

I love kids books

Children's books. My kids, Max and Calvin. Random thoughts connected to books and my kids.

The Belugas are Watching

...as we write, draw, and blog.

Children's Books Heal

Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else. -- Margaret Mead

Pretty Books

One girl's adventures in books, food and travel

Design of the Picture Book

the intersection of graphic design + picture books

David Gaughran

Let's Get Digital


Howdy! We're the largest independent bookstore in Texas. This is our blog.

The Librarian Who Doesn't Say Shhh!

Opening books to open minds.

The Book Wars


This Kid Reviews Books

A Place for Kids and Grown-Ups to Discover Books

Kid Lit Reviews

Honest, Thoughtful Reviews

Loren Long

children’s book illustrator and author

Creative Grove Artist & Designer Market

artist and community festivals in the public space held from 2009 - 2014

Delightful Children's Books

Find a book to delight a child.

Book Blogger Directory

The Big Blog of Book Blogs

Nerdy Book Club

A community of readers

Sommer Reading

A Blog About Books

educating alice

monica edinger, teacher and reader of children's literature

Bobs Books Blog

Childrens and Young Adult Book Reviews by Bob Docherty

Random Acts of Reading

reviews, raves and a random assortment of book buzz

children's books for grown-ups

Natasha Worswick's blog

Watch. Connect. Read.

Children's Book Reviews

Book-A-Day Almanac

Children's Book Reviews

100 Scope Notes

Children's Lit

%d bloggers like this: