Lettered Creatures

Brad and Mark Leithauser are brothers, born in Detroit in the 1950s. Brad is a bard and Mark has made his mark as a painter and draftsman. They share the same exquisite family wit, one born in precise observation matched with intellectual playfulness. This wit is on display on every page of this remarkable alphabet book, each spread of which is devoted to an emblematic creature an appetitive Anteater, an annoying Fly, an addled Joey, a prickly Porcupine, and 22 more. On the left of each spread is an eight-line poem; opposite it is a delicate, complementary pencil drawing, reproduced here in exacting duotone. The poems will remind readers sometimes of Marianne Moore, sometimes of Ogden Nash; the detail of the drawings will remind them of John James Audubon and their pointed humor of Tenniel’s Alice in Wonderland. But comparisons are odious here: this book is a duet by two great contemporary artists, a unicum by any description.