Selected and annotated by Laurel Halfar
Anno, Mitsumasa. Anno’s Alphabet: An Adventure in Imagination. T.Y. Crowell, 1975. 53p. 5-7 yrs.
Each spread in this wordless alphabet book depicts an illustrated three dimensional block letter. The letters appear to be carved of wood and each one is accompanied by an associated illustration. Intricate black and white frames decorate each page. Some pages include other objects that begin with the highlighted letter.
Ashman, Linda. M is for Mischief: An A to Z of Naughty Children. Dutton, 2008. 48p. Gr. 3-5.
This collection of twenty-six humorous, tongue-twisting poems introduces us to the likes of “Doodling Daphne,” “Wild Will,” and other unruly youngsters. Bold collage-style illustrations depict the rascally rhymes accompanying each letter of the alphabet.
Blake, Quentin. Quentin Blake’s ABC. Knopf, 1989. 32p. 4-6 yrs.
Each page of this oversized ABC book presents a letter of the alphabet - in capital and small letters, a word beginning with the letter, and an accompanying phrase. The rhyme scheme of the spreads, “U is Umbrella to keep off the rain / V is for Vet, when your pet has a pain,” and Blake’s playful, and often silly, black ink and water-color illustrations make for a lively read-aloud.
Brown, Ruth. Alphabet Times Four: An International ABC. Dutton, 1991. 30p. 3-8 yrs.
Brown introduces the letters of the alphabet and one corresponding word beginning with each letter in English, Spanish, French, and German (including pronunciations). Intricate illustrations accompany each page and are contained in unique arched frames.
Chwast, Seymour. Still Another Alphabet Book. McGraw-Hill, 1969. 54p. 3-6 yrs.
This bold and quirky work is anything but “still another alphabet book”. A letter form and an object related to the letter are depicted in bold and brightly colored illustrations. Readers are encouraged to guess what objects are shown on each page (most are straightforward: F depicts a large fish; but a few of the illustrations are more abstract: N is a blank page depicting “nothing”). There is an alphabet strip on every page that changes style and location and the letters needed to spell the illustrated object are highlighted in a different color. If a reader is still stumped, there is a key located in the back.
Crowther, Robert. Robert Crowther’s Incredible Animal Alphabet. Candlewick, 1995. 12p. 3-6 yrs.
Six white spreads introduce us to a variety of animal names (in alphabet order) through a series of labeled pull tabs and flaps. Each flap or tab reveals the animal in question and sometimes a little more: lifting the mammoth flap reveals a mammoth being bitten by a mosquito and scared by a mouse, pulling the spider tab shows a spider descending on a string of web, and the penguin tab reveals a line of marching penguins and the plural form of the word. A few elements are interconnected; when the tab for anteater is pulled, the anteater moves towards a newly revealed line of ants. Each page has enough variance and surprise to keep the concept fresh and exciting throughout.
Duvoisin, Roger. A is for Ark. Lothrop, 1952. 40p. 4-8 yrs.
In this Flood story Noah instructs the animals to board the Ark in alphabetical order to be sure none are forgotten. Each page showcases a letter of the alphabet and several creatures as they board the vessel two-by-two.
Edwards, Michelle. Alef-Bet: A Hebrew Alphabet Book. Lothrop, 1992. 32p. 5-9 yrs.
This book introduces each letter of the Hebrew alphabet, its transliteration, a Hebrew word beginning with the letter, its pronunciation, and the English translation. The letters are supported by brightly colored illustrations depicting a fictional family doing everyday activities. An author’s note, tips on how to use the book, and the complete Hebrew alphabet are included.
Feeney, Stephanie. A is for Aloha. University Press of Hawaii, 1980. 58p. 3-5 yrs.
Each spread in A is for Aloha features a letter of the alphabet, shown in both upper and lower case, a black-and-white photograph featuring places and experiences central to life in Hawaii, and a word or several words beginning with the letter. The book also contains additional information about the islands, a glossary of unfamiliar terms, and ideas on how to share the book with children.
Fisher, Leonard Everett. The ABC Exhibit. Macmillan, 1991. 32p. 3-6 yrs.
Fisher begins with the traditional alphabet book format, he assigns a word beginning with each letter of the alphabet and produces an accompanying illustration. But this alphabet book is beyond the ordinary. Fisher's sophisticated acrylic paintings maek the book flow like a gallery tour. This book could effectively serve as an alphabetical introduction to art appreciation.
Gaiman, Neil. The Dangerous Alphabet. HaperCollins, 2008. 30p. Gr. 3-6.
Two children and their pet gazelle sneak past their distracted father into the tunnels that wind below the city. Their underground escapade, full of monsters and other terrible creatures, is explained through 13 couplets - one beginning with each letter of the alphabet. Creepy illustrations accompany the text adding additional eerie elements, but have no fear the children and their doe-eyed companion eventually ascend to safety.
Geisert, Arthur. Country Road ABC: An Illustrated Journey Through America’s Farmland. Houghton, 2010. 64p. 6-10 yrs.
This examination of the alphabet takes readers on a four-season tour of contemporary farm life in rural Iowa. Each spread features a letter of the alphabet, shown in upper case, a black-and-white etching of a related word, and a detailed panoramic color illustration featuring authentic experiences central to life on a farm. A winding country road runs along the bottom of each page uniting the book. For terms that may be unfamiliar, such as disking, a glossary is included.
Geisert, Arthur. Pigs from A to Z. Houghton, 1986. 56p. 2-5 yrs.
Seven pigs building a tree house lead us through the alphabet. A bit of text explains the action associated with each letter and is paired with an elaborate full-page black-and-white etching. The illustrations are a hide-and-seek puzzle with the seven pigs, five forms of the showcased letter, and one form of the preceding and following letters hidden within. A key is included in the back of the book.
Lester, Mike. A Is for Salad. Putnam, 2000. 32p. 5-8 yrs.
This humorous take on the traditional alphabet book tells us that, “A is for salad”, but in fact A is for the alligator munching on the salad shown in the woodcut-like illustration. Each page will have readers exclaiming to announce what animal they think the letter truly represents and it will keep readers laughing with such additions as, “X and Y are not important letters. Never use them.” For more literal readers, the end papers deftly explain, “A is also for alligator. B is also for beaver . . . ” and so on.
Lobel, Anita. Alison’s Zinnia. Greenwillow, 1990. 32p. 4-6 yrs.
In this circular tale Lobel leads readers smoothly through the alphabet connecting each letter with a girl’s name, verb, and flower. Each girl gives a blooming gift to the next taking us from, “Alison acquired an Amaryllis for Beryl,” all the way to, “Zena zeroed in on a Zinnia for Alison.” Each line is accompanied by a large floral painting, the capital letter, and a smaller illustration of the girl’s deed.
McLeod, Bob. Superhero ABC. Harper-Collins, 2006. 40p. 3-6 yrs.
Each letter of the alphabet is dedicated to introducing a new superhero and his or her atypical power in alliterative fashion: Laughing Lass “Laughs Loudly at Lawbreakers” and enjoys lollipops; Rain-Man showers criminals while wearing his red rubber suit; and Upside-Down Man wears his undergarments over his uniform. Bold comic-book style illustrations complete with humorous captions accompany each persona.
Micklethwait, Lucy. I Spy: An Alphabet In Art. Greenwillow, 1992. 57p. Gr. 1-4.
The traditional game of I Spy is brought to another level by adding both alphabetical elements and early art appreciation. Twenty six examples of fine art (including both classical and modern, famous and lesser known pieces) are paired with letters of the alphabet and a clue, “I spy with my life eye something beginning with…” encouraging readers to study a variety of paintings while seeking out objects (a key is included in the back).
Milich, Zoran. The City ABC Book. Kids Can, 2001. 32p. 6-9 yrs.
Zoran reveals letter forms in everyday city structures through a series of 26 black-and-white photographs highlighting the letter shape in bright red. The stairs of a fire escape create a K and the cross bars of a child’s swing become a T. This city-scape examination shows that the alphabet can be found everywhere and may encourage readers to explore their surroundings with a new perspective.
Murray, Alison. Apple Pie ABC. Disney Hyperion, 2011. 32p. 3-7 yrs.
A very determined dog and a delicious apple pie take center stage in this delightful alphabet story. Each letter of the alphabet is featured in large block text and begins a phrase or word of the story. The seamless tale takes us from the baking of the pie to the persistent pup trying all tactics to get a taste to his eventual success. The illustrations have a vintage style and warm color palette which adds to the charm of this alphabetical anecdote.
Pelletier, David. The Graphic Alphabet. Orchard. 1996. 32p. Gr. 2-4.
Graphic designer David Pelletier provides an advanced and creative take on the classic alphabet book format. Each page provides one word beginning with each letter and an accompanying illustration in which the word and letter form are simultaneously visually represented. For instance “iceberg” is shown by the stem of a lower case “i” floating in water topped with a full moon representing the dot.
Pilobolus. The Human Alphabet. Roaring Brook, 2005. 32p. 6-9 yrs.
The renowned Pilobolus dance company brings the ABCs to life in this stunning alphabet representation. Human bodies form not only letters, but also a corresponding representation of something beginning with the letter. Readers will be amazed by the dancers’ ability to create everyday objects through their forms and will have fun guessing what they represent (a key is included in the back).
Rankin, Laura. The Handmade Alphabet. Dial, 1991. 32p. All ages.
Each handshape of the American Sign Language manual alphabet is introduced through a realistic and beautifully illustrated color-pencil drawing. Each fingerspelling corresponds with a creative interpretation of the letter, the hooking motion of the J swipes a taste of jam and the G adorns a glove.
Robb, Don. Ox, House, Stick: The History of Our Alphabet. Charlesbridge, 2007. 48p. Gr. 4-8.
Do you ever wonder where our alphabet comes from? This book traces the origins of each letter or groups of related letters in the Roman alphabet explaining what they originally stood for and how they changed into the form we know today. Illustrations and pieces of related information are interspersed throughout the pages. Additional resources and a chart summarizing the letters’ histories are also included.
Schmiderer, Dorothy. The Alphabeast Book: An Abecedarium. Holt, 1971. 52p. 3-5 yrs.
Schmiderer uses four frames to change each lower case letter of the alphabet into an animal beginning with the same letter, “a” becoming an anteater and “z” a zebra. This graphically compelling menagerie uses a simple color palette of red, white, and blue to demonstrate the transformation.
Seeger, Laura Vaccaro. The Hidden Alphabet. Porter/Roaring Brook, 2003. 28p. 4-7 yrs.
Seeger goes beyond the traditional matching of each letter to an illustration and word by incorporating a unique lift-the-flap technique. Each page shows an object in a black frame labeled with contrasting white print; when the frame is lifted the object becomes part of the letter form. A door becomes the center of a D and a snake becomes the inside curve of an S.
Van Allsburg, Chris. The Z Was Zapped. Houghton, 1987. 54p. 5-8 yrs.
In this 26 act “play” presented by The Alphabet Theatre readers witness each letter as it takes the stage and encounters some type of devastation. Alliterative explanations are presented on the following page, which encourages a guessing game of sorts. For instance, a black-and-white illustration shows S being dowsed with water and the following page reveals, “The S was simply Soaked.”