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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday: Nancy Raines Day brings us A IS FOR ALLIGUITAR

Fans of Nancy Raines Day’s wordplay are in for a treat. Her newest picture book, A IS FOR ALLIGUITAR - Musical Alphabeasts (Pelican Publishing, Spring 2012) is a unique abecedarium - chock-full of fun animal/instrument combinations.

Since Nancy’s first picture book, THE LION’S WHISKERS, appeared in 1995, she’s published half a dozen more. All have poetic language, and some of them rhyme, like her rollicking ON A WINDY NIGHT (Abrams) (see my blog post here) and DOUBLE THOSE WHEELS (Dutton).

In her new book, each letter of the alphabet comes to life in an unexpected way. The Illustrations by Herb Leonhard are colorful and full of expression and movement. (And what a challenge it must have been to visually create, say, a “harpoodle” or an “organutan.”) For insight into Leonhard’s process in bringing to life these “alphabeasts,” which involved traditional and digital painting techniques, see his comments here on Nancy’s website.

Here’s how the story starts:

Animals, instruments,
swing all around,
Mix - one for each letter -
now how do they sound?


Some of Nancy’s own favorite characters begin the adventure:

A
is for alliguitar,
who has his
own picks.

B
is for banjaguar,
who plays some
hot licks


Another of her favorite spreads is one I’m especially drawn to:

S
is for saxofox,
with velvet-toned
tail.

T
is for tromboa,
who really can
wail.


I’m swayin’ to the music, baby.

Nancy adds, “My fellow University of Michigan alumni friends get a kick out of the wolbourines.”

Before becoming a children’s author, Nancy wrote in some form or fashion throughout her life. As a child, she “published a newspaper written on leaves with ‘ink’ from squished berries and charged 25 cents in hickory nut money.”

I asked Nancy a couple of questions about this new book.

How did you get the idea for ALLIGUITAR?

“I was standing on the St. Simons (Georgia) pier, thinking about going to a reunion concert of the youth orchestra I played viola with in high school--all the different instruments and the people who played them. Some tourists on the pier were talking about just having seen an alligator in the water. So, while scanning the water for an alligator and thinking about instruments, my wires got crossed and I said "Alliguitar".

I wondered if I could come up with a combination like that for every letter of the alphabet. Mostly, I did it for my own entertainment. (Some people do crossword puzzles; I set myself these little challenges.) Then I wondered if I could put it all in rhyme, which--this time--came easily. It was a gift.


What fun! What was the most challenging part of the project?

The most challenging part was probably coming up with the animal/instrument combinations. Google was a big help for finding lists of animals and instruments that started with the right letter or sound. It also helped in trying to come up with scenarios to pair the two musical alphabeasts in the same stanza and spread. For instance, googling ibis and jackal, I discovered the Egyptians had two gods, one with the head of an ibis and another with the head of a jackal.

Those ancient Egyptians had some intriguing deities. Thanks for stopping in, Nancy!

Young readers will love the creative letter/instrument combinations that form each colorful "alphabeast" - and they will likely come up with their own! Learn more about Nancy and her work at her website.

And to fill your universe with more great poetry, click on over to visit Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe for this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup. [Next week, the Roundup will be HERE! :0) ]
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