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Alphabet Adventures

By Alida Allison

From soup to nuts, the letters of the alphabet can be found almost anywhere you look. These ingenious authors and illustrators present an adventurous tour of the alphabet through letters, language, and clever illustration.

Talk to Me About the AlphabetTalk to Me About the Alphabet
Ages: Infant - 3 yrs.
By Chris Raschka
Henry Holt, $16.95 (Hardcover)

Here, exuberantly imaginative author/illustrator Chris Raschka, turns his attention to the ABCs, presenting readers an alphabet with attitude. The attitude belongs to the funny and dynamically-drawn brown-suited velocipede-riding gent who directly addresses the reader with humor in illustration and text.

The Circus AlphabetThe Circus Alphabet
Ages: Infant - 3 yrs.
By Linda Bronson
Henry Holt, $15.95 (Hardcover)

The 3-dimensional art in this colorful book is delightful. Bronson builds her illustrations using clay, wallpaper fabric, cottonballs, shiny fabrics, and tassels. She adds paint and a fine design sense to create highly imaginative circus pictures. The text is a whimsical sentence for each letter.

Zoopa, An Animal AlphabetZoopa, An Animal Alphabet
Ages: 3 - 6 yrs.
By Gianna Marina
Chronicle Books, $14.95 (Hardcover)

This playful book is designed as an interactive game about a bowl of soup-- alphabet, of course. Each illustration introduces one or more new letter-appropriate animals for young readers to identify and track through the pages as they change position on the page and engage in running gag activities. The soup bowl fills with letters and the new animals bound onto the pages, until all twenty-six are represented.    

Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
By Michael Chesworth
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16 (Hardcover)

Alphaboat is an Xtraordinary romp with language, tremNdously funnE and original. The story is a hunt for the lost treasure left by Mister E for his Miss Mellow D; the ship’s crew is letters ("the officers are uppercase") who raise their "n r g" and do their work on the "double, you!" Question and exclamation marks become part of the play and, once the treasure "I-land" is found, there is a friendly "L O" and "blue J's" fly. The treasure? A dictionary. The jewels? The words "gold," "silver," etc. Chesworth's lovely watercolor/pen and ink art is hilarious, depicting the text and adding many more jokes, such as the letter "d" beneath the waves with the bubble comment, "I am the subtext."

The crew has to return briefly to the island to pick up the silent “e” they've left behind and then make its way through a "nasty scrawl" and past such geographical locations as "Sands Serif" and "Pencilvania." Readers will cheer as the triumphant crew is rewarded with "apos-trophy."

Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
By Cynthia Chin-Lee, Illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy
Charlesbridge, $15.95 (Hardcover)

Here the alphabet provides the structure for a salute to remarkable women. Many are well known: Jane Goodall, Oprah, Helen Keller, Rachel Carson. Others are revelations, like Quah Ah, a Pueblo painter, and Nawal El Sadaawi, an Egyptian doctor and writer. The stories are stirring pieces of history. The prose is for children who read well by themselves. Each woman has her own well-designed page (a room of her own) and very imaginative, mixed-media illustrations.

Kipper's A to Z: An Alphabet AdventureKipper's A to Z: An Alphabet Adventure
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
By Mike Inkpen
Harcourt, $16.95 (Hardcover)

Kipper, a dog, and Arnold, his frog friend, go on an adventure with a box waiting to have things put in it. The story is simple and appealing, with direct addresses to the reader-- ("Can you think of anything [that starts with K]?). As Kipper and Arnold encounter various bugs and animals, an impatient zebra keeps popping up to ask if it's time for it yet. This is well suited for beginning alphabeteers.

ABC x 3: English, Español, Français
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
By Marthe Jocelyn, Illustrated by Tom Slaughter
Tundra Books, $12.95 (Hardcover)

A fine beginning book for letters and languages, ABC x 3 colorfully presents the letters represented by an appropriate animal—“Ee is for elephant.” But there’s more. “E” is also for “elephante” and “elephant,” because the word for each letter is given in English, Spanish, and French. The illustrations are bold and bright flat colors of simple objects, Iisland,” for example. The Ssnake is memorably well designed, as is the Xxylophone.

The Alphabet Keeper
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
By Mary Murphy
Knopf, $14.95 (Hardcover)

The alphabet keeper is dumpy, grumpy, and nasty enough to keep the letters locked in a cage. But the letters escape and fly around the room, each making its own sound.

The letters elude the keeper by inserting or removing themselves from the narrative. For example, when the keeper chases the letters into the park, the  “p” turns upside down and the park turns into a bark.  A little dog bursts through a narrative frame and chases the keeper until the “b” turns backward and it becomes dark; the keeper can't see. This series of humorous situations continues, culminating in an unexpected twist.

More an adventure story calling attention to the letters than an alphabet book per se, The Alphabet Keeper is a treat for children learning to read and for those who read with them.

There's a Monster in the AlphabetThere's a Monster in the Alphabet
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
By James Rumford
Houghton Mifflin, $16 (Hardcover)

This fanciful history of the early Greek alphabet is based on the Greek myth that Cadmus, founder of Thebes, was originally a Phoenician who brought the new writing system with him on his gods-driven search for a new homeland. In telling his story, Rumford utilizes a Greek style of art dramatically and effectively, often on black backgrounds. The Cadmus story is woven with letters showing how their shape was associated with animals and objects (house, ox, etc.). It is certain to captivate intelligent children.

Found Alphabet
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
By Ramon Shindler and Wojciech Graniczewski, Illustrated by Anita Andrzejewska and Andrzej Pilichowski-Ragno
Houghton Mifflin, $16.00 (Hardcover)

An ingenious and delightful book of poetry using the alphabet as a framework, Found Alphabet is a sophisticated but simple combination of whimsical verse and intriguing illustrations. Anita Andrzejewska and Andrzej Pilichowski-Ragno use everyday objects: scraps of wood and metal, the cans, keys, gears, string, leaves, and cubes of sugar, illustrate each letter of the alphabet. The poems themselves are clever; some readers may find them philosophical.

A Gardener's Alphabet
Ages: 4 yrs. - Up
By Mary Azarian
Houghton Mifflin, $16 (Hardcover)

Mary Azarian is a Caldecott-winning author/illustrator who, as her introduction states, has a lifelong love of gardens. The love shows, as well as the artistry. These paintings have a stained glass look, so clear and rich are the colors. Visually interesting, each painting offers much to see. Azarian chooses her alphabet examples cleverly and widely. Compost and Manure are items, as well as Insects, Ornamental garden, and Japanese garden; verbs too: Dig, Prune, Harvest.

Alpha DINO BetAlpha DINO Bet
Ages: All Ages
By L.C. Sugar
Pyramid Publishing, $16.95 (Hardcover)

Can you even imagine, much less draw, dinosaurs depicted in the shapes of the alphabet--each letter a different dinosaur? Can you put on each page different delightful mysteries for readers to spot and trace out through the book? Can you find all the letters you've read so far repeated on each new page in clever ways that reinforce the learning? Do you want pronunciations for each dinosaur's name-and, to top it off, do you want a bi-lingual book with its lighthearted verses in both Spanish and English?

L.C. Sugar's book is all this and more, an original book in which the familiar alphabet cavorts in the shapes of these dinosaurs. In the generous amount of detail on each page are things kids like to find, talk about, then read and find again, like little bugs, fish, and Seuss-like flowers and trees. At the end of the book, Sugar spells with his dinosaur alphabet the message the book presents throughout: Enjoy reading.


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