While Van Allsburg probably wanted to display various actions and unusual wordsmith in this black and white alphabet book, the majority of them come off as being quite bizarre and disturbing. No child really wants to see their beloved A get pummeled in an avalanche, or the Q getting quartered by a giant knife. In fact, I found myself being oddly unsettled by the bitten B, drowned D, and cut to ribbons C. It is almost like Van Allsburg was set out to torture the alphabet in this macabre book.
Even the things that give the book strength reinforce the creepy mood. All the illustrations are done with such precision and depth that they almost resemble black and white photographs. Under normal circumstances, this would be beautiful. However, the realism in this case mixed with the somber black an white colors add to the weirdness. Plus, while the vocabulary is at a higher level than most books, (i.e. quartered, uprooted, warped, etc.) Van Allsburg’s diction adds even more eerie realism to the book.
The only real method of plot, if you could call it one, is hinged on the fact that Allsburg puts "Act 1" though "Act 26" on the top of each page, while placing each letter on a stage. If you think about it, the letters are getting abused for the readers entertainment. I try not to think about that…
I love Chris Van Allsburg’s work, but this book was just a tad bit too bizarre. While I found myself enjoying the unique and creative perspective of it, the weirdness outweighed the whimsy. "The Z Was Zapped" is a fun novelty book for Halloween, but please do not share this book with young children.
by Luke D.