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Donna M. Rink
Alpha Buddies Land

Picture Book; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

"Alpha Buddies Land" brings the alphabet to life through the fun cartoon characters Alpha Buddies. Children will fall in love with the characters as they learn a series of new words. It is the first picture book in a series of eight exciting stories where the Alpha Buddies pair up with their friends and they all go on an exciting adventure at the end of a rainbow, in a magical place called "Alpha Buddies Land".

At the end of the rainbow, Rink’s “Alpha Buddies”—cheery, anthropomorphized alphabet letters with big emotive eyes and ribbon-laced sneakers—meet to blow balloons (in the case of blue, bashful “Buddy B”), jump rope while telling jokes (that’s “Joker J”), and a host of other alliterative activities. The buddies romp in a vibrant fantasyland of palm trees and castles and verdant green, quick-stepping (that’s “Q-Tee”) or rocking out on guitar (meet “Red R”) and even, when alphabetically appropriate, crying, like “Cutie Pie C.” But the mood is mostly buoyant as Rink tours readers through the ABCs and introduces 26 Alpha Buddies, all “friends forever” who hold hands in Alpha Buddies Land—and also, as a closing photo of stuffed Alpha Buddies characters suggests, join together into words.

The fun of Rink’s first Alpha Buddies books comes not just from the beaming letter characters or the bright, inventive digital backdrops that are choc-a-bloc with endearing suns, fish, elephants, horses, and lacey-eyelashed hearts. That’s all memorable, of course, but what’s most powerfully engaging is the way the book’s alphabetical structure, allotting one text page and one full-page illustration for each letter, invites young readers to imagine along about the next letter’s activity or character name. Rink is generous in the number of elements included in each spread, so readers guessing kitten, kite, or kiss for K (full name: Kala K) will feel rewarded.

That spirit of playful abundance even enlivens the pages given to the alphabet’s final three letters, perennially linked, in alpha-books, to xylophones, yaks, and zebras. The X, Y, and Z pages likely won’t be favorites like U’s—“Ulla U” gets a unicorn, an umbrella, and the cutest smile in the book—but they exemplify Rink’s approach. Even when young readers have a good idea of what’s coming, Alpha Buddies Land gives them more than they might expect, with an emphasis on the darling. Even the vulture hanging out at a volcano is cute as a bug.

Takeaway: This lively alphabet book introduces 26 darling and inventive letter-based characters.

Great for fans of: Alethea Kontis’s AlphaOops, Maira Kalman’s What Pete Ate.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A