Ox, House, Stick: The History of Our Alphabet
Don Robb, author
Don Robb is the author of This Is America and Hail to the Chief: The American Presidency. He lives in Andover, Massachusetts.
Read more about Don Robb.
Anne Smith, illustrator
Anne Smith is a graphic artist and illustrator. This is her first book for children. She lives in England.
Read more about Anne Smith.
- A Junior Library Guild Selection, Premier Selection
- Children's Book of the Month Club, Alternate Selection
- Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best Book
- NCTE Orbis Pictus Award, shortlist
- The White Ravens (International Youth Library)
The Horn Book Magazine
Our alphabet has evolved over four thousand years, with one culture after another borrowing and reshaping symbols to their needs. Robb traces the transformations of each letter through their Sinaitic, Phoenician, early and classical Greek, and Roman forms, grouping those (like C and G) whose histories were intertwined and tucking in lots of other fascinating lore. The Romans used V instead of U because it's easier to carve in stone (our usage of both letters dates only to the 1700s); they invented serifs for neatness in the same medium. The Phoenician forerunner of H was a consonant, but the Greeks used it, later, as a vowel. The Romans referred to letters as elements (elementa), possibly from the L-M-N sequence." Pleasantly open spreads accommodate basic information in a Roman face, ancillary information in sans serif, plus an abundance of illustrative details—letters in their various forms, objects that inspired them (see titles), artifacts, and details of ancient settings. An excellent first resource, skillfully organized to introduce the subject and inspire interest. A summary chart of letter origins and a list of resources (websites plus books for children and adults) are appended. -J.R.L.
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Page count: 48
8 1/2 x 11