E-Mergency – CYBILS Fiction Picture Book 2012

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As promised, I am reviewing some of the CYBILS fictional picture book nominations over the next couple of months. 167 books were nominated in this category and the first round judges are very busy reading through them all right now.


Written and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, with Ezra Fields-Meyer as a contributor

Published by Chronicle Books, October 19 2011

Themes: Alphabet, friendship, wordplay, problem-solving.

Ages: 3-8

Opening Lines/Synopsis:

“All the letters lived together in a big house. Every morning they ran downstairs to breakfast.”

The letters of the alphabet all live together in a house and have different jobs to do. En route for breakfast one morning, the letter E tumbles down the stairs. Oh, no!  It’s an emergency!  The letter X helpfully marks the spot where E tripped, meanwhile A jumps into action and asks J to call 911.  E is rushed hospital, but lack of E throws so many words into confusion and a replacement must be found.  The obvious choice is O, who is well-rounded, especially as other, like Y asks too many questions, and proves too sleepy!  Mad, manic and zany antics ensue as the 25 letters collaborate to find a solution to E’s absence and conveying the necessary information to the community. An announcement is made on television shows and in newspapers to alert the public that E is out of service and O will stand in.  D and C ”travol to Washington to alort the govornmont.”  Meanwhile back in the hospital, E’s recovery appears slow and his co-letters, upset by this news, pursue a culprit, who must have been “disoboying tho lottor of tho law!”

“It’s like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom on steroids.”- Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Visual and print punnery will have elementary kids (and adults) guessing and laughing”. – Kirkus Reviews

Why I like this book:

This alphabet book is packed with puns, acronyms and side-splitting humour, in both its words and illustrations. Preschoolers will not get the word-play, but will be stimulated by the simple storyline and zany, active cartoon-like illustrations and it can be used for letter recognition. Older children will love the word/letter-play. Adults will enjoy the wit too, and the ending is satisfactorily unexpected.

One of the reasons I appreciate this wacky book is that It was inspired by Ezra Fields Meyer, a teen boy on the autistic spectrum, who is an expert animator, who had created a short animation video titled  Alphabet House when he was 12 (he’s now in grade 10).  Tom Lichtenfeld contacted Ezra after watching this inspirational video, and this unusual book collaboration evolved.

The colorful spreads are very detailed and time needs to be taken with the illustrations to appreciate all the humour therein. P is in the bathroom in the first illustration…if that gives you a sense of the laugh-out-loud illustrative jokes!


  • Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2011
  • Association for Library Service to Children, Notable Children’s Picture Books 2012 nominee
  • ChildrensBookGuide.com Best Children’s Books of 2011 selection
  • Boston Globe, Best Books of the Year 2011 selection


There is a great review with the author here on the blog Children’s Books Heal.

With older elementary children, I believe this could be part of a discussion on the topic of autism.

A simple theatrical script for children of E-Mergency can be downloaded here.

Here is a free activity guide.

Children could  write sentences and then rewrite them replacing all the E’s with O’s, giving a great sense of the importance of the letter E in the English language. A contrast would be made with other vowels.

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15 Responses to E-Mergency – CYBILS Fiction Picture Book 2012

  1. I remember this great little book. Thanks for a wonderful review of it Joanna.

  2. I’m so happy E-mergency has received so many accolades, and is nominated for the CYBILS. It certainly is deserving. Loved your review and remarks about why you liked the book. It is a side-splitting read for kids. Thanks for the mention of the interview. Hope this book places.

  3. Excellent review, and I’m so glad you mentioned Pat’s interview. I also appreciate that you’ve suggested that the book could be a springboard for talking with kids about autism. Great that it’s up for a CYBIL this year! Hope it wins!

  4. Hannah Holt says:

    Sounds exciting, energetic and excellent. Thanks for the review!

  5. I remember that Ezra wrote this from Ms. Tilton’s review. I LOVE the idea of the book. Very creative!

  6. Joanna says:

    I hope Ezra knows that it has been nominated!

  7. I love these kinds of detailed books. Thanks for the review. I’m going to pick this one up for sure.

  8. That sounds so much fun! I think I’m going to have to get that one 🙂
    Thanks Joanna.

  9. OOH! What a fantastic idea to review these books! I love it! I’m always looking for something fun and new for the kiddos. This once sounds great! Glad you shared.

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