E-mergency! by Tom Lichtenheld

Cindy: I’ve been immersed in teen lit this year but being the klutz I am, I couldn’t help but notice the cover of E-mergency! (Chronicle 2011) with poor E slipping on a flight of stairs headed straight for O. Oh-no! The importance of the most frequently used letter E is made perfectly clear in this funny story that has O filling in for his buddy E while she is in the hospital in traction. A “Spocial Bullotin” appears on tv and D and C travel to Washington to alert the government about the e-mergency! (Huh, Congress taking quick action for the common good…fascinating.) Lots of fun ensues as everyday signs and phrases are changed and young readers will have fun sorting out the familiar words. Despite the best efforts of E’s friends and supporters, she isn’t getting well, but the letters figure out the problem…the narrator is still using E. Shame on him. I can hear the giggles from readers, and the fun only starts with the text.

The illustrations are delightful, and paired with the text include puns that will amuse not only the intended audience but the adults reading it with them. Particularly fun are the cut-aways of the alphabet’s house with lots of small dramas and humor presented…kids who like potty humor will especially enjoy the two bathroom scenes. Don’t miss the end-papers, and the title page on which an ambulance is swerving madly to arrive on the scene and nearly takes out the author names. Writing the blog at 5 a.m. this morning, I originally misread the end papers thinking that a high schooler illustrated the book. Let me set the record straight. The idea for the book was inspired by a YouTube video called Alphabet House created by a young man named Ezra Fields-Meyer who granted permission for Tom to build on the idea to write and illustrate E-mergency. Ezra is also the subject of a memoir, Following Ezra, written by Ezra’s father, Tom Fields-Meyer, about the first ten years following Ezra’s diagnosis with autism. Watch this book trailer and you’ll want to read that story as well.

It’s not awful by any means to be buried in teen lit, but I’m sure glad I didn’t miss this e-xtraordinary alphabet book.

Lynn: I’m so glad to be getting to this energetic and excellent book!  Since E has recovered from her fall I can throw around e words with abandon.  Thank goodness!  As readers quickly learn, E is essential!  In fact, according to the table in the back, E has the highest frequency use in the English language – 12.7% with T a distant second at 9%.  Entertaining and enlightening!  Our focus group loved this book for the clever word play and the hilarious illustrations.  Who knew letters of the alphabet could have such personality?  In fact, I think the audience is for readers a bit older than the usual alphabet book because of the language use.  It takes a reader to understand most of the jokes.  The twins solemnly decided you needed to be a sophisticated 7 or 8 to really appreciate this book but I think it would be a GREAT book to put up on a visual presenter in a classroom of first or second graders and collectively identify all the jokes.  Just be prepared for an epidemic of giggles.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

2 Comments on "E-mergency! by Tom Lichtenheld"

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  1. Thank you for reviewing our book. Just a quick clarification…much as I wouldn’t mind being mistaken for a high school student, the illustrations were done by me (Tom), a guy well into middle-age. High school student Ezra Fields-Meyer inspired the the book with a video he posted on youtube. I saw the video and, with his cooperation, created the book. Ezra’s dad, Tom Fields-Meyer, has written a wonderful memoir about Ezra called “Following Ezra.”
    Thanks again for your support, Tom L.

  2. Thank you, Tom, for your gentle clarification on my huge mistake. I will edit the post above but am posting your comments with this apology for those who read my post earlier today and were left with e-rroneous information. I should have stayed in bed this whole week…yours is not the first mistake I’ve made, including forgetting my secretary’s birthday today. Thanks again, for the correction and for the energetic and engaging illustrations. The book is a hoot!–Cindy

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