A & The is 99% about children’s books. Specifically, right now, about Newbery-winning children’s books. I am spending two years reading every single Newbery winner in reverse-chronological order. The other 1% is probably about other books or about me being a teacher who lives in Chicago and writes and does stuff.
The title comes from an Ellen Raskin book. You might know Ellen Raskin as the author of the Newbery Award-winning The Westing Game. But well before that she was an illustrator for other people’s books and book covers and was a commercial artist. (She illustrated the cover for Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, making her the only Newbery winner to illustrate a Newbery-winning book written by someone else, as far as I know.) Then she wrote and illustrated a bunch of her own picture books. Then she wrote four novels. I am obsessed with all of them. A & The or William T.C. Baumgarten Comes to Town is one of her picture books. She dedicates the book to anyone who can read the words a and the. Throughout the story the words a and the are bolded. You’d think the rest of the story would be nice and simple so beginning readers could enjoy it, but it’s weirdly complicated and remarkably long. Virtually all of Ellen Raskin’s picture books are quite long and a lot of the stories are super bizarre. This is probably why every single one of them is out of print. The illustrations are amazing, though, and I find the stories hilarious and imaginative. Because she basically only wrote one popular chapter book, her picture books are easily acquired for a very low price on used book sites. I recommend you buy some.