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The A to Z of Everyday Things    by Janice Weaver & Francis Blake order for
A to Z of Everyday Things
by Janice Weaver
Order:  USA  Can
Tundra, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I've always enjoyed Francis Blake's cheerful, whimsical illustrations, and they're put to effective use in Janice Weaver's A to Z of Everyday Things, which tells the surprising tales behind 26 'extraordinary ordinary things' (one for each letter in the alphabet) that we take for granted.

It begins with A for the 'Alphabet', and its origins in the Luxor Semitic alphabet, discovered in the mid-1990s. Weaver continues with a discussion of the history of the color 'Black' ('White' comes later) and of 'Calendars', through the alphabet to the idea of 'Zero' (apparently people took some convincing that it was a good thing in 1000 A.D.). Along the way, there's a 'gruesome tale of personal sacrifice' from India ... starring the Easter bunny. I was surprised to learn that the Chinese invented ice cream; that the longest used currency in history is the cowrie shell; that tulips came from Turkey and 'tulipomania' only struck Holland in the 1630s; and about the ragged history of underwear.

Dip into any of the letters in The A to Z of Everyday Things to find out how much you didn't know about so many 'remarkably unremarkable things' and how they grew to become part of our daily lives.

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