On Beyond Zebra by Dr. Seuss is a hilariously sideways satire on the stereotypical "A is for Apple" readers dissolving the minds of our youth, as well as a parable about the necessity of open-mindedness and imagination. It was (presumably) intended from those of about four to eight years old, but is well suited for anyone looking for a moment of childish light-heartedness, or simply anyone with a few screws loose.

"...to Z is for Zebra. I know them all well."
Said Conrad Cornelius O'Donald O'Dell,
"So now I know everything anyone knows,
From beginning to end, from the start to the close,
Because Z is as far as the alphabet goes."
The narrator, an older and more worldly boy than small Conrad (bearing an uncanny resemblance to the narrator of The Cat In The Hat), isn't interested in any sort of reductionist approach to letters. "My alphabet starts where your alphabet ends," he explains, and proceeds to drag his young friend on an odyssey through many fantastic lands, where they meet creatures whose names begin with letters like Yuzz and Humpf. Seuss even gives us far-out symbols designating his tongue-racking new letter/syllables.

And NUH is the letter I use to spell Nutches,
Who live in small caves, known as Nitches, for hutches...

The illustrations push Seuss's brash, colorful and absurd style onto a plateau he has only rarely equalled. Creatures like the Glikker -- a tiny blue gnome-thing who spends his life juggling cinnamon seeds -- and the Wumbus -- a mile-long cow with 98 or 99 "faucets" for giving milk -- leap off the page and grab you by the brain. Meeting the artwork's high standard, his trademark jolly, dadaist rhymes have never been more abundant. This book defines Seuss's constant contention that normal language isn't big enough to say what needs saying. Although strangely underappreciated, it's one of his best, and that's saying an awful lot.

(It was originally published in 1955 by Random House. ISBN: 0394800842.)

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