Book Review: Life is a Zig-Zag: Maira Kalman's ABC book


Ah-Ha to Zig Zag

Ah-Ha to Zig-Zag is Maira Kalman's charming and intelligent children’s book counterpart of her magnificent book, My Favorite Things. Both books were published on the occasion of an exhibition Kalman curated at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.  

In this beautiful Alphabet book, Kalman selects thirty-one objects from the Cooper Hewitt's collection and strings them together into this A to Z of design history, with her characteristic quirk, wit and warmth. 

'Life is not a straight line. Life is a Zig Zag. A little forth. A little back as you Zoom along.'

This isn't a conventional A for Apple Alphabet book. Only three objects actually begin with their corresponding letters — Pocket, Umbrella, and Zig-Zag (Chair). Q is for toaster: 'Quite the toaster,' she writes. N is for toilet: 'Now might be a Good Time to go the bathroom. No worries. We will wait for you.'  E is for an English Porcelain Dog: 'the cutest dog on EARTH. (ExcepT for Your DOG) with The Cutest EYEBROWS on EARTH'

It is an affectionate conversation with the reader where Maira describes her chosen objects in funny, unexpected, and profound ways. 

Ah-Ha to Zig Zag

Ah-Ha to Zig Zag

Ah-Ha to Zig Zag

Ah-Ha to Zig Zag

As a postscript, Kalman ends the book with a photographic index and portraits of and words about Nellie and Sally Hewitt — the two young women who founded the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

'They loved to sing and dance. They were just a little bit wild. A little bit.

They had sharp eyes. The kind of eyes that really LOOK at things.

One day they decided to collect the things they loved, and create a museum. And they really did it. Which is a lesson to be learned. If you have a good idea — DO IT.'


This book is a delight from beginning to end and highly recommended as a stylish present for children.

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