I’m not gonna lie, I’m a word nerd, so when A Zeal of Zebras: An Alphabet of Collective Nouns arrived in my mailbox (1) I literally (2) squealed with delight. Beautifully illustrated examples of wackadoodle collective nouns? Yes, please.
This book is visually gorgeous: I’d be happy to have any of the pages reproduced as a poster for my walls. It’s a wonderful browse and look type of book. There’s not a narrative, just an alphabetic sequence of collective animal nouns, and small blurbs that go with each one. For an Unkindness of ravens, we are told:
There are always six ravens living at the Tower of London, a tradition that started in the nineteenth century. Legend has it, if the ravens leave, the great White Tower will collapse and a terrible disaster shall befall England.
There’s no source for this little tidbit, though, so I wouldn’t necessarily use this book for fact finding; however, as a gorgeous introduction to some wonderful, perhaps underused parts of the language, it’s aces.
1) I don’t actually have a mailbox where I have books sent. It’s more of a shelf.
2) I want the wherewithal to beat, with a stick, anyone and everyone who misuses “literally.” Actually, let’s just put the word away in a drawer until people have forgotten about it, and we can reintroduce it into the wild when people have a renewed respect for it.
Reviewed from a copy provided by the publisher, Chronicle Books.