A Book of Alphabets and Birthdays
By Gertrude Stein
(Yale University Press, Hardcover, 9780300170979, 128pp.)
Publication Date: May 2011
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"Alphabets and names make games and everybody has a name and all the same they have in a way to have a birthday," muses Gertrude Stein in To Do: A Book of Alphabets and Birthdays. Written in 1940 and intended as a follow-up to her children's book The World Is Round, published the previous year, To Do is a fanciful journey through the alphabet. Each letter is represented by four names (including Gertrude for "G") and features a short story told in verse. "[This is] a birthday book I would have liked as a child," said Stein of To Do.
Publishers rejected the manuscript as too complex for children, and it remained unpublished during Stein's lifetime. A text-only version issued from Yale University Press in 1957. Now, more than seventy years after Stein penned the story, To Do is appearing with illustrations, realizing the author's original concept for the book. Giselle Potter's witty and stylish illustrations provide a perfect complement to Stein's uniquely whimsical world of words, creating a truly delightful, often hilarious book that adults and children alike can appreciate and love.
Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) was at the forefront of the development of modern art and literature. Her archive is housed in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. Giselle Potter has worked for the New Yorker and has illustrated more than twenty children's books. Timothy Young is curator of modern books and manuscripts at the Beinecke.
"Gertrude Stein''s long-lost kids'' book is bizarre—and a great reflection of how children think. . . . As To Do proceeds through the alphabet, it becomes a book not just about language learning, but about pretending, about how children learn to distinguish the abstract from the concrete, the made-up from the real."—Stephen Burt, The Boston Globe
"The highly original, repetitive, and sparely punctuated verse may be read rapidly for heightened effect. A one-of-a-kind book that will remind grown-ups how joyful it can be to put sentences together."—Fore Word