Thursday, November 12, 2015

He didn't get fame from 'The Alphabet Game'

Harry and Jeanette posed during their 25th wedding anniversary party at home, August 1968. Two months later, Harry submitted the "verse-story" below for publication. I wonder what (or who) inspired him.

We’ve seen many examples of Harry's creative poems, as well as why he wrote them -- to tell stories both real and fiction, to persuade others, to stir imaginations, and just for fun. But did you know he wrote at least one for children? Neither did I, until I saw it in a stack of short stories in a musty old box. Harry sent "The Alphabet Game" to at least two publishers: Authors and Publishers’ Service in Flushing, NY, and Harper & Row in New York City. Here's his submission to the latter.

October 24, 1968

Dear Miss Nordstrom:

Enclosed is a short Verse-Story for your consideration and possible publication. I have tried it on several pre-school children and they were delighted with it. Suitably illustrated, I believe it would be quite appealing. Though I cannot provide the artwork myself, I have several ideas about illustrations.

Please let me know if you think it worth pursuing, or if you would be interested in receiving more such material for a juvenile audience.


Harry M. Zubkoff

The Alphabet Game

Thousands and thousands of years ago,
Before you were born and started to grow,
When people lived in caves and hunted,
No one talked; they only grunted.

No one could read or write at all,
They just painted pictures upon the wall,
Until some people whose names we forget,
Invented a brand new alphabet.

First they invented the sounds, you see,
Like the sound of A and sound of E.
And three more sounds are I, O, U,
They call them letters, and vowels, too.

These five little letters you learn today,
Make every sound that you can say,
Just try them out, make sounds for a while,
But quietly please, soft sounds with a smile.

Then they had to shape each sound,
To make it flat or broad or round,
To make each sound into a word,
To understand it when it’s heard.

As they invented every letter,
Each sound got a little better.
And finally, when they were done,
They added up to twenty-one.

Now let’s review, for just a minute,
How many letters are there in it?
The total number’s twenty-six,
And they do all the sound-word tricks.

Repeat these letters after me,
B, C, D and F and G.
H, I, J, and then there’s K,
Now that’s enough for you today.

After K comes L and M,
Drop one leg and there’s the N,
Then P, Q, R, and S, T, and V,
W, and X, Y, Z.

We call those letters consonants,
Because they sit there on a fence,
They’re silent, they cannot be heard,
They only help to shape each word.

They wrap each vowel in a shell,
We call it learning how to spell,
So when you know them all by sight,
You, too, can learn to read and write.

So practice them and play some games,
With sounds and words and even names,
And maybe, when you have some time,
You might compose a little rhyme.

Like A, B, C, D, E, F, G,
H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P,
Q, R, S, T, U, and V,
W, and X, Y, Z.

Or, A, K, J, and W,
M, and N, and U, and Q.
Or maybe C, D, E, P, T,
Go on, it’s fun, just try and see.

I didn't see a rejection letter, but it looks like "The Alphabet Game" ended up in the soup.

Stay tuned; next week I'll post a writing that surprised me more than this one.

Copyright 2016
Elaine Blackman

1 comment:

  1. Les Evjen wrote:

    Harry's gifts spanned many ages,
    Like Doctor Seuss and other sages.
    He wrote and wrote and wrote some more
    Until his work filled pages galore.