[review + giveaway] Alpha Beta Chowder by Jeanne Steig and William Steig

#52 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.

Foreword

A chowder is a robust goop
That’s more akin to stew than soup.
It can be brackish or divine.
Sit down and take a taste of mine.

So begins Alpha Beta Chowder, a wry, witty, and deliciously wicked ABC poetry book by husband and wife team Jeanne Steig and William Steig. This classic 26-verse feast of wacky wordplay was originally published by HarperCollins in 1992 and reissued by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books last month.

I admit this title has been on my radar for years but I only recently had the chance to read it. Of course I’m a longtime William Steig fan — I still sigh and swoon over Brave Irene and Dr. DeSoto, especially  — but I wasn’t familiar with Jeanne Steig’s work, and boy, have I been missing out!

Nasty numbskull Naomi and her nitwit Ma and Pa (click to enlarge).

Goodbye, boring “A is for Apple” and “Z is for Zoo” — Jeanne’s cheeky alliterative rhyming poems feature a motley crew of odd and quirky mock heroes, many you’d rather read about than meet in person. God forbid you get stuck in a room with Noisome Naomi, a nervy newtish nightmare whose “voice is like a needle,” or come within hearing distance of Coaxing Carrotina and her blister inducing shrill cadenzas on the concertina. *covers ears* 

Beware the harpy and hag unless you crave the heebie-jeebies, and avoid Ken the killer kangaroo lest you get a swift kick, but if you need a wardrobe makeover you might call on Dizzy Daphne, who’ll be “dreamily draped in damask” and showing off her “devastating dimples.” Just ignore her friend Dora, who tends toward the drab, dim, droopy, dull and dismal.

I’m guessing Ms. Steig probably ate alphabet soup for lunch every day while writing these poems because of the veritable banquet of chewy, chunky, crispy words she used. She celebrates each letter of the alphabet with such delightful strings of fun and frisky ones – pure joy to read aloud. Words like “axolotl,” “absquatulate,” “irascibility,” and “katzenjammer” will send kids to the dictionary (a good thing!) and challenge their enunciation skills with an exhilarating workout. Since most of the word definitions can be derived from the poems’ contexts, there’s no break in the action.

Near-death by piano lessons.

Mr. Steig’s illustrations extend the offbeat humor and silliness of the poems, completing the mini narratives with deftly drawn visual contexts, proving that when it comes to tickling our aberrant funny bones, he and Ms. Steig were definitely on the same page. Oh, those longish noses, sly eyes, pointy shoes, comical cats and craggy teeth! His loose and expressive pen and ink drawings brilliantly capture both melodrama and absurdity with such fiendish aplomb.

Don’t tell anyone, but I can see myself as Penelope in “A Pianist Plummets,” feigning death rather than practice my scales, and I’d really like to be on that beach surrounded by sixty tons of cheese, nibbling myself silly before the skipper and stowaway in “Shipwrecked Sailors Salvage Stilton” wake up.🙂

Here are three delectable foodie poems (what else?) from the collection. Mr. Cornelius was especially pleased to see a bear featured, albeit a belligerent one, and now he wants a taste of barnacle tea. I doubt I’d invite Gruesome Gilbert over for a meal, who’d probably generate a good measure of guttural gags and guffaws (luckily he seems to have at least one doe-eyed admirer). Obadiah, on the other hand, might score an invite (we are ever-so-careful with our crawfish here). Put on your bent bibs and dig in!

*

BELLICOSE BRIGAND VS. BELLIGERENT BEAR

A bear and a brigand were bickering bitterly
Under the shade of a baobab tree.
“The best thing by far,” bawled the brigand, “is baklava.
“Bosh!” boomed the bear. “It can’t possibly be.

“Why, there’s bric-a-brac, ipecac, blubber, and broccoli,
Bamboo, banana oil, beetles, and brine.”
“You bandy-legged brute,” brayed the brigand, “you blatherskite!
Baklava beats them all any old time.”

Oh, what a brouhaha: “Baklava!” “Balderdash!”
“Bah!” barked the bear. “We shall never agree.”
“Let us pause,” breathed the brigand, “and banish this blabber with
Hot buttered bat bread and barnacle tea.”

*

MY GRUESOME GILBERT

Gilbert’s such a greedy glutton
When he gnaws a leg of mutton
All his garments are so greasy
They would make a gibbon queasy,
And his teeth are green and gooey,
Oh, so gorgeously mildewy!

Gilbert smells like old galoshes
(Grandma swears he never washes).
Gilbert’s generally vastly,
Grandly, gallopingly ghastly.
No, he isn’t worth one filbert,
But I’m gaga over Gilbert.

*

OBADIAH OVERCOME

Obadiah, feeling offish,
Said, “It must have been those crawfish.
Oftentimes an old crustacean
Causes inner consternation.
It’ll kill you, if you let it.
I ought never to have et it.
All the same,” groaned Obadiah,
“I enjoyed that jambalaya.”

*

🍲 ALPHA HA HA BETA CHOWDER  🍲

Chewing on this book was a blast but all that laughing left me famished. Could one read a book with “Chowder” in the title and not crave a warm bowl of the stuff? I think not.

After reading about poor Obadiah, Mr. C and I opted for a zero seafood Slow Cooker Potato and Corn Chowder from Damned Delicious. Easy peasy is always a requirement since we’d much rather spend our time stalking Colin Firth reading intellectually stimulating, socially redeeming books than slaving over a hot stove.

This recipe was as simple as tossing everything into the crackpot crockpot — sliced red potatoes, frozen corn, chicken stock, thyme, oregano, garlic powder and onion powder — then letting it cook for 4 hours. We stirred in butter and heavy cream right before serving. It was tasty and satisfying, but I was a little surprised to find mischievous letters had somehow slipped into my bowl. Hmmmm, wonder how that happened? Now I can’t keep my chowder from laughing.😀

*

Oh, I can’t stand it. Just one more quazy poem for dessert. One of the true tests of a good alphabet book is how the tricky letters “Q”, “X” and “Z” are handled. I love this “Q” poem — quite a coup! (Quick, read it fast 3 times in a row while eating an ice queam cone.)😀

QUENTIN QUAILS

Quick-witted Quentin rode out on a quest
With a quill in his hat and a quaint quilted vest.
He was flung into quicksand, got caught in a squall,
Squirmed out of a quagmire, an earthquake, a brawl.
He acquired, for his trouble, the hand of the Queen —
Quite a quarrelsome creature. And squint-eyed. And mean.

*

ALPHA BETA CHOWDER
written by Jeanne Steig
illustrated by William Steig
published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, February 2016
Light Verse Collection for kids 4+, 48 pp.
*Bring your sense of humor (yataghans, watercress, feather dusters and semolina optional)

*

📗 SPECIAL BOOK GIVEAWAY 📘

For a chance to win a brand new copy of Alpha Beta Chowder, simply leave a comment at this post telling us what your favorite word is no later than midnight Wednesday, March 9, 2016. You may also enter by sending an email with “CHOWDER” in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Winner will be announced next Friday. Good Luck!

*

🎉 MY VILLAGE GIVEAWAY WINNER 🎈

And now, the lucky person who’s just won a brand new copy of My Village: Rhymes from Around the World

is

*drum roll please*

🙂

🙂

🙂

KAREN HAMMONDS OF REVOLUTIONARY PIE!!

CONGRATULATIONS, KAREN!

Please send your snail mail address so we can get the book out to you lickety split.

Thanks, everyone for entering. It was interesting to hear about your favorite languages.

Merci!

Tak!

Danke!

Mahalo!

Xièxiè!

Gracias!

Arigatô!

Vinaka!

Ki Ora!

Thank You!

*

poetry fridayLithe, lovely, luscious, laughing, lint-free, lambada and limbo loving Linda Baie is hosting the Roundup at Teacher Dance. Pack your giggles and go check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Have a fun weekend!

P.S. Has anyone seen my hammer? I’m making mashed potatoes tomorrow.

 

With that, I shall absquatulate!🙂

 

alphabet iconCertified authentic alphabetica. Made by hand just for you with sauciness, zest, wordplay, and baobab trees. 

 

♥ More alphabetica here.

*

wkendcookingiconThis post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your best bibs and aprons, and come join the fun.

 

 

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*Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2016 Jeanne Steig, illustrations © 2016 William Steig, published by Atheneum/Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

73 thoughts on “[review + giveaway] Alpha Beta Chowder by Jeanne Steig and William Steig

  1. Well, I was feeling “offish” this morning, but not any more thanks to your post, Jama. I’m thinking that I will have to try chowder for dinner tonight…and, of course, now I will be thinking about chowder all day!

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  2. I love everything about this post- the virtuoso verses, perfect pictures, and riotous review! Just one favorite word? How is that possible? Ok, off the top of my head: bamboozle.

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  3. Oh, I am a BIG Steig fan! And pleasantly surprised that we share two favorites, Irene and Dr.D! As a kid ‘flabbergasted’ made me squeal with delight! I was so sure it had a lot in common with the sounds involved with flatulence! Still squealing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my! I didn’t know Jeanne Steig’s work either; thanks for remedying that. This endeavor is certainly worth a re-issue. I read parts of the post aloud to my office cat.
    LOVE your laughing chowder!! And, favorite word? Could be the current political climate, but the one that jumped out and landed on my tongue was “blatherskite”! ;0)

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  5. Jama, the Steigs need a medal all their own. What a book to make you laugh and as you said, guffaw (must use that word-right?) Anyone who can write a poem that has rhyming with Jambalaya is a treasure. My favorite word, not as obtuse as some in these poems, but I love it: serendipity, the saying and the meaning! Thanks Jama for sharing this new edition.

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    1. Serendipity is definitely a great word! I love when it happens too🙂 This is a great book for all ages. Quite a trip to read aloud.

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  6. What fun! I can’t help imagining how twisty this would be to read outloud to kids full of giggles. And can you imagine having the two Steigs over for dinner? What a hoot they must be together. As for me, I am going to try your chowdah this weekend. It sounds perfect for a late winter weekend that is fixing to be dreary.

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    1. Wouldn’t that be something — I imagine it would be hard to eat anything with all that laughing. Such brilliance.

      Enjoy the chowder!

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  7. Gah! I’m done worn out from all the alliteration and raucous rhyming! I may have to take a few deep breaths before picking up this one… and never before bed. So many favorite words… hmmm…. the word du jour is nincompoop.

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  8. This is one of my favorite books ever. I don’t need to enter the drawing because I have it. I just wanted to comment HOORAY for this book.

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  9. I would love to have this book! Those sample poems are terrific.
    Corn and potato chowder, yum! Easy and delicious.
    I have many favorite words. For today, let’s go with “addlepated”!

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  10. I LOVE this book, and am so happy to hear that it’s being re-issued. I think my favorite is the “D” poem (Dora in that dismal dirndl,/dim and droopy–most distressing/and that doodad like a doily/on her head–oh, how depressing.) SO fun to read aloud. I have a copy, so will refrain from entering myself in the contest, but since we’re talking “d” words, I do like discombobulate.🙂

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    1. When I first read this book, I Did think about some of those characters in M is for Mischief.🙂 You have quite the deliciously wicked streak yourself.

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  11. I remember this book. (I am a big fan of alphabet books of any kind.) My favorite word is cogitate.

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  12. This is a great book but probably too much to be digested in one sitting! It’s a 26 course meal! Small delicious bites to savor would be best, I’m thinking!

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  13. This is so much fun. I love the nonsense and silliness—just my taste! I have to pick offish as my favorite word because I think it was brilliant to rhyme it with crawfish.
    Thanks for sharing about this book, Jama. I will be looking for it.

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  14. Are you sure you should absquatulate in public? LOL I’m flabbergasted! Your post was hilarious, about a book that was terrific. I am a big fan of the ever clever Dr. DeSoto. A big Steig fan. My favorite word — Jama-balaya.🙂 Have a great weekend!

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  15. Sounds like such a fun book! The illustrations are perfect, too. I have a number of favourite words, which are usually polysyllabic, yet roll off the tongue with lyrical jocundity; two that immediately come to mind are “tintinnabulation” and “perspicuity.” They’re just so fun to say!

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    1. Oh my, but aren’t you the erudite one? Don’t think I’ve ever used “perspicuity” in my speech or writing. It sounds like someone who’s very adept at perspiring. :))

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Oooh thanks so much for the laugh this morning. I truly did laugh out loud at the “Near-death by piano lessons” picture. What a beautiful book and so much fun. I always say my favorite word is eclectic.

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    1. Yay, another William Steig fan! I’m sure he’s smiling down on us right now. And I do like your word — play. Yes! We need to let ourselves play whenever possible.

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  17. Enough with all the clishmaclaver, Jama! On to more serious things, like Colin Firth and where do you stalk him? At the library we still have the Steig’s earlier collaboration (1988) Consider the Lemming, which is fun, too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I shall have to look for Consider the Lemming too.

      I love the word clishmaclaver — new to me. I’m glad I asked people to share their favorite words as I’m learning so many really good new ones.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Jama, you have pulled together a wonderful review of the alphabet book, added in a dash of teddy antics, mixed up a chowder, and invited us to your playground and table. What more can I ask for on a Saturday. You whet my appetite for poetry and word weaving. Quagmire is my word of the week since I have been caught in a rather complex one with computer glitches-lots of technical words floated in space to unravel the mystery of my zany machines.

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    1. Sorry to hear about the computer woes — I hate technical problems! Quagmire is a good word to describe that. Hope things get fixed quickly.

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  19. Darling,delightful and deliciously appealing this dopey diary is definitely getting dedicated to my dream list of doozies to share with my daughter’s daughter who is my grand. Don’t think I’m dizzy, daring to forget the drill and dutifully share the word Dastardly…diabolically dreadful…don’t you agree?

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  20. Wow! That Steig lady is a quick draw with the Thesaurus. This book must have been a hoot to write! Very fun review.

    My favorite poem of those you quoted was the “Bellicose Brigand and Belligerent Bear” and “bellicose” gets my vote for a favorite word–good to have at the ready when watching political debates (yes, we do watch your politics up here in Canada🙂

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  21. This book sounds like so much fun. I love poetry collections and this one looks great. Thanks for telling me about it and for the chance to win a copy. My favorite word is pugilistic because it simply doesn’t sound like what it is.

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  22. What a fun book! I had not heard of the authors before but your post made me want to go find it and his other books you mentioned. Loving the chowder–there is something about alphabet letters that make soup fun!😉

    For my favorite word it varies but lately I am fond of bespoke. I like the way it sounds and the definition–“anything commissioned to a particular specification. It may be altered or tailored to the customs, tastes, or usage of an individual.” In the past I had heard it only applied to clothing but was reading an article abut food where it was used, which I will admit sounds quite pretentious, but now it is stuck in my head.😉 Thanks for the giveaway!

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  23. I’d never heard of Jeanne Steig before, either. There can never be too many clever alphabet books in the world! A comment or two made me think of this favorite French word/phrase trompe l’oeil (trompe=deceive).

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  24. My almost 5 year old would likely get a kick out of this book, though I think it would be ME an enunciation workout!! Favorite word? I’ve always liked Serendipity.

    And oh goodness–mashed potatoes with a hammer. Same almost 5 year old would love that…she’s in charge of making mashed potatoes in our house. Ha!

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