Search on ....
Subscribe to SLJ
100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

Review: Take Away the A by Michael Escoffier

9781592701568 999d1 187x300 Review: Take Away the A by Michael Escoffier

Take Away the A
By Michael Escoffier
Illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo

Enchanted Lion Books

ISBN: 9781592701568
Grades PreK-2
Out September 9, 2014

Find it at:
Schuler Books | Your Library

There’s nothing new under the sun. And then there is.

If children’s literature were Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, alphabet books would be at the base – essential, but not all that often reaching up into self-actualized territory where creativity and spontaneity lie. Because of this role they fill as a basic literacy building block, knocking a mediocre ABC book is sort of like knocking water – it may be boring, but it’s doing something important, right? Take Away the A succeeds in having its cake and eating it too. Engaging from page one and smart as a whip, the team who brought Brief Thief to the world takes on an old standard and create something delightfully fresh.

Without the A

the BEAST is the BEST

And there, in that one quote, is the beautiful essence of this book. Each spread presents a letter of the alphabet along with a short sentence about what happens to a word when that particular letter is removed. Some are hilariously wacky (“Without the C the CHAIR has HAIR”), others thought-provoking (“Without the Y YOURS is OURS”), before the perfect conclusion: “Without the Z we cannot sing our ABC’s!”, as the reader turns the page to see a snail sawing logs with a flock of ZZZZZZZZZs overhead.

9781592701568 3 c33bb 500x397 Review: Take Away the A by Michael Escoffier

I’m willing to bet illustrator Kris Di Giacomo had a good time on this book. The text leaves plenty of room for the art to fill in the blanks, and fill in it does, with an assortment of creatures – familiar, odd, and anthropomorphized rendered in fine lines and muted colors. The illustrations bring an organized chaos to the proceedings and often explore creative interpretations of the text. Example – the spread that reads “Without the F the SCARF hides a SCAR”, where a peg leg parrot covers a line of stitches behind a piratey red head wrap. That could have gone a number of ways, and Di Giacomo found one that kids will love.

9781592701568 1 b5a3b 500x397 Review: Take Away the A by Michael Escoffier

Perhaps what I appreciate most about this book is that it adds a layer of complexity to a children’s lit staple while remaining a squarely for kids. The fear in this sort of thing is that your ABC book might go over the heads of the kids who read ABC books. Take Away the A isn’t a wink for the adult reader – it’s for the kids, through and through.

An alphabet book that isn’t satisfied just covering the ABCs, Take Away the A has substantial classroom connection appeal as well. It’s something pretty new under the sun.

Review copy from the publisher.

share save 171 16 Review: Take Away the A by Michael Escoffier
About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Josh Funk says:

    I love the ingenuity of this book. The concept is great. Wish I thought of it…

  2. Emily says:

    Love ABC books. I believe they are excellent resource for all elementary grade levels. Glad to see a new, and witty version come out.

Speak Your Mind