Z Is for Moose by Kelly L. Bingham, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky, is such an over-the-top success because it breaks all the rules. Or rather, it breaks just the right rules. The book follows the alphabet, but Moose does not. Zebra tries to keep things going along smoothly, but he cannot—because Moose bucks the system. And when Zebra casts Mouse in the “M” scene, it feels downright mean. But the clever way that Zebra makes it up to Moose teaches us something about both creativity and friendship.
We all know how desperately Moose wants to be a part of the show, and Zelinsky emphasizes this in his brilliant artwork by breaking all the rules of picture book making. Bingham and Zelinsky establish a strict structure, then tear it all down, and play with perspective and the animals' relative sizes. But author and artist also convey an emotional honesty through the breaking of these rules, as Moose invades our space and that of his fellow performers—crossing out words and bursting through the edges of the pages until the stage is utter chaos.
Children, like Moose, are passionate and focused—they just want to participate. And when they are barred from participation, they cannot control their anger and disappointment. It leaks out in all sorts of ways, albeit perhaps not as dramatically as it does for Moose. As a picture book that tests the boundaries of the format while also teaching children their ABCs as well as giving them a way to talk about their feelings, Z Is for Moose is a triumph.