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The Disappearing Alphabet by Richard Wilbur, illustrated by David Diaz

Richard Wilbur, poet and writer, has twice won the Pulitzer Prize and served as National Poet Laureate. In 1998 a series of poems he wrote for The Atlantic Monthly was paired with the magnificent artwork of Caldecott winning illustrator David Diaz. Diaz is also a gifted graphic designer, which shows in his work, especially his illustrations for Newbery winner Sharon Creech's book The Castle Corona, which has the feel of an illuminated manuscript from the middle ages.



The Disappearing Alphabet, available in paperback and hardcover, is the work of these two gifted minds. The book begins with this poem:


If the alphabet began to disappear,

Some words would soon look raggedy and queer

(Like QUIRREL, HIMPANZEE, and CHOO_CHOO TRAI),

While other would entirely fade away;

And since it is by words that we construe

The world, the world would start to vanish, too!

Good Heavens! It would be and awful mess

If everything dissolved to nothingness!

Be careful, then, my friends, and do not let

Anything happen to the alphabet.


26 poems follow, each one imagining a world without the corresponding letter. All are thoughtful and playful, as are Diaz's illustrations. Definitely a book worth having on the shelf and surely one that will inspire minds to imagine the world in a new and different way.

You can read the poem for Q by clicking here. These are also two of my favorites in the book:


Hail, letter F! If it were not for you,
Our raincoats would be merely "WATERPROO,"
And that is such a stupid word, I doubt
That it would help to keep the water out.




















What if there were no letter W?
The WEREWOLF would no longer trouble you,
And you'd be free of many evils
Like WARTS and WEARINESS, and WEEVILS.
But then there'd be (alas!) no sweet
WATERMELONS for you to eat.*





*What's more, I guess there'd have to be a
Different shape in CASSIOPEIA.

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