Posts tagged alphabet

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.


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My top thirteen books for Halloween, from board to young adult.

Five Little Pumpkins


Ages birth to 3

By Dan Yaccarino

16 pages



Dan Yaccarino’s art is bright and bold and features expressive pumpkins, a ghost, a witch and a black cat. Based on the popular rhyme and finger play, this book offers a great opportunity to learn about colors, expressions and counting to five.


One, Two Boo

Board/ Lift-the-Flap

Ages 18 months to 3 years

by Kristen L. Depken

Illustrated by Claudine Gevry

12 pages

Golden Books


Meet a ghost, a cat and other traditional Halloween characters as you count your way through this lift-the-flap haunted house.


Spooky ABC

(Originally published as Halloween ABC in 1987)

Picture Book

Ages 3-6

By Eve Mirriam

Illustrated by Lane Smith

32 pages

Simon and Schuster


This Halloween themed alphabet book features a varied array of spooky items and creatures. F is for fiend, N is for nightmare, and X is for a xylophone made of bones. They’re all creepily and perfectly illustrated by the unmistakably talented Lane Smith.


Dem Bones

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

By Bob Barner

32 pages

Chronicle Books


White skeletons, set against bright backgrounds, play instruments while teaching young listeners how all our bones connect. This picture book version of the Bones song features additional information about each of the bones as well.



Picture Book

Ages 2-7

By Robert Bright

48 pages

Farrar, Straus and Giroux


Originally published in 1944, Georgie is not strictly a Halloween book, but it is a great story about a ghost. Every house has a ghost. Georgie loves his house, all its squeaks and its owners. So when some of the squeaks and creaks get fixed, Georgie decides its time to find another house. After searching and searching, Georgie soon realizes he loves his house best.



Picture Book

Ages 3-7

By Dav Pilkey

32 pages



This is one of my favorite Halloween books. Dav Pilkey’s story is sweet and hilarious; his illustrations are colorful, and cartoon-y. The other dogs laugh at Oscar, a dachshund, because he’s so short and long. The teasing gets worse when Oscar’s mother dresses him as a hotdog for Halloween. But it’s Oscar that saves the night after the other dogs are chased into a lake by two mean cats.


The Halloween Play

(Originally published as The Halloween Performance in 1990)

Picture Book

Ages 3-8

By Felicia Bond

32 pages



Roger has a small and very important part in the school’s Halloween play. This adorable book follows all the pre-show jitters and anticipation through to the performance and post show excitement. Using warm colors to depict tiny Halloween characters, this book could easily become a year-round favorite.


The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything

Picture Book

Ages 4 to 8

By Linda Williams

Illustrated by Megan Lloyd

32 pages



When the little old lady is followed home by an empty pair of shoes, she tells them, “I’m not afraid of you!” Soon a pair of pants, then a shirt, and a pumpkin head joins them, and they’re all following her! The little old lady is still not afraid, and after rounding them all up, she has a lovely scarecrow for her garden. Lloyd’s bright, colorful folk art is a perfect complement to this spooky story with a funny ending.


Dragon’s Halloween

Early Reader

Ages 4-8

By Dav Pilkey

48 pages



This is another one of my favorite Halloween books. It contains three tales about Dragon and his Halloween adventures: “Six Small Pumpkins,” “The Costume Party” and “The Deep Dark Woods.” Dragon is one of my favorite early reader characters. He’s sweet, funny, adorable and endearing. The stories are wonderful and the art is irresistibly delightful.


Ed Emberly’s Drawing Book of Halloween

Activity Book

Ages 6 to 12

By Ed Emberly

32 pages

LB Kids


Ed Emberly leads young and aspiring artists, shape by shape, through the steps to drawing spooky characters and scenes. A great book for the family to share.


Little Monsters Cookbook

Activity Book

Ages 6-12

By Zac Williams

64 pages

Gibs Smith


Features thirty recipes for Halloween, or anytime kids want a spooky snack. Some of the recipes are simple and others more complicated to accommodate a range of ages. Large colorful photographs accompany all the recipes in this spiral-bound (genius!) cookbook.


The House with a Clock in its Walls

Middle Reader

Ages 8-13

By John Bellairs

179 pages



(Originally published in 1973)

John Bellairs (1938-1991) was an amazing storyteller who wrote adventurous tales of terror. This is the first book in the Lewis Barnavelt series. After Lewis’s parents die, he goes to live with his uncle in an old, large mansion full of secret passageways. The previous owner of the house was an evil wizard who planted a clock inside its walls, counting down to the end of the world. When Lewis accidentally awakens the dead on Halloween night, the clock begins ticking even faster.


Halloween Tree

Young Adult

Ages 10 to 16

By Ray Bradbury

160 pages



(Originally published in 1972)

In this eerie tale set on Halloween, eight costumed boys are lead through time and space by Mr. Moundshroud. While searching for their friend Pipkin, who was swept up by a dark something, the boys get a glimpse of how other, sometimes ancient, cultures celebrated this time of year.

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