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New and Original Alphabet Books Debut!

Share If you think all ABC books are alike, then you need to check out these new alphabet books. Each book is truly unique!

Brand-new illustrations give a century-old book a second life. Friendly insects plan a surprise party for one of their own. A lift-the-flap alphabet book encourages hands-on involvement from non-readers. A rather irreverent look at the alphabet will elicit a double take from older readers. This week, Education World looks at five enjoyable new alphabet books for preschoolers and up!


Book Cover Image Unlike most ABC books, Miss Spider's ABC (Scholastic Press), written and illustrated by David Kirk, tells a story. A different insect, from an ant to a zebra butterfly, represents each letter. Anticipation pervades the book as preparations for a big event are described. At the end of the book, the reader discovers the reason for all the excitement: Miss Spider's surprise birthday party!

In his simple text, Kirk uses alliteration to emphasize the sound of each letter. For example, "Ladybugs laugh. Moths mingle." Colorful paintings portray the various insects as cute, friendly, and non-threatening creatures. This enjoyable ABC book should appeal to non-readers and beginning readers, who will appreciate the simple prose, the build-up of excitement as the surprise ending gets closer, and the brilliant colors in the illustrations.


Book Cover Image If you're looking for a terrific read-aloud book for young children, look no farther than Amazing Animal Alphabet (Orchard Books), written by Richard Edwards and illustrated by Sue Hendra. Each page is devoted to one letter and contains a rhyming riddle. The artwork includes some visual hints. Readers who can't guess the animal can lift the flap to find the answer. For example, for the letter K, Edwards writes

I kick up the dust. Just look at it fly!
I skip and I leap and I bounce right by.
Who am I?
When the reader lifts the flap, flanked by cheerful drawings depicting smiling koala bears sitting in trees, he or she discovers a hopping kangaroo.

Edwards uses a diverse group of animals, from an ordinary pig to the more unusual vole, and even throws in an imaginary one -- a unicorn. The singsong quality of the text makes this book easy to read aloud, and Hendra's bold yet simple illustrations should appeal to young children. Of course, lifting the flaps to check their guesses adds to kids' fun.


Book Cover Image The title A Is for Salad (The Putnam and Grosset Group), written and illustrated by Mike Lester, lets readers know immediately this is not an ordinary ABC book. Not only is A for salad, but "K is for doctor," "L is for hair dryer," and " M is for cowboy boots." The punch line to the running joke becomes apparent on the inside back cover, where the reader discovers that the letters also stand for something else. "A is also for alligator." A smaller version of the original artwork -- an alligator munching on a salad -- also appears.

Lester's illustrations add greatly to the sense of fun. The illustration for the letter O, which "is for bow ties," shows an ostrich wearing four bow ties on its long neck. For the troublesome X and Y, Lester states "X and Y are not important letters. Never use them." He punctuates that sentiment by showing two unshaven sanitation workers carrying the letters off in garbage cans.

This is obviously not a book for children just learning the alphabet; the mixed-up examples would probably confuse them. Children who have mastered the basic alphabet and the sounds of the letters will probably enjoy the silliness, though. They might try to figure out the "real" word in each picture without peeking first at the answers -- or make up their own irreverent look at the alphabet!


Book Cover Image Obvious Letters (Educ-Easy Books) fits well into this discussion of ABC books with a difference. The difference here is that this ABC book, written by Gisela Hausmann and illustrated by Ozzie Pardillo, offers a simple tool for teaching letters -- capital and lowercase -- as it teaches their associated sounds and shapes.

Hausmann designed Obvious Letters to appeal to students who have a variety of learning styles:

  • Visual learners. The form of each letter of the alphabet can be clearly "seen" in each illustration. For example, the uppercase B is represented in an illustration of a butterfly; the butterfly's right wings clearly become the capital B. The lowercase b is worked into the form of a backpack on a porcupine's back.
  • Auditory learners. The illustrations will help auditory learners make the connection between letters and sounds. The capital A presents the long vowel sound of the letter; the letter is cleverly revealed in the shape of an apron. The lowercase a represents the short vowel sound hidden in the shape of an apple slice.
  • Kinesthetic learners. A user might copy pages for coloring by students who learn kinesthetically. Those students will "feel" the letters as they color them!

A few of the letter illustrations in Obvious Letters stretch the meaning of the word obvious, but that won't minimize the fun as students find the letters and talk about their shapes and sounds.

Elementary-age youngsters might create their own "obvious letters" illustrations based on those in Hausmann's book!


Book Cover Image First published in 1871, An Edward Lear Alphabet (HarperCollins Publishers Inc.) gets an updated look in this new edition. Illustrator Vladimir Radunsky's bold, energetic collages stand up nicely to Lear's nonsensical rhymes. Most of the artwork is straightforward. For the letter R,

R was once a little rose,
Blows-y grows-y
Little rose.
the picture consists of a chubby hand holding a deep red rose against a solid green background.

More ABCs from Education World

Check out these ABC resources from Education World!

* ABC Books Aren't for Babies! Are you looking for an activity that will engage students -- from kindergarten to college -- while they learn? Why not challenge students to create their own ABC books? Included: More than 200 ABC book ideas -- spanning the grades and the curriculum!

* Catch A New Batch of ABC Books! ABC books are a great way to engage student interest in any topic. This week, Education World looks at a handful of the most recent books of the genre, including books about boats, rain forests, and children with asthma.

Some of the illustrations, however, are definitely more off-the-wall. For the letter U, which stands for urn, a funereal urn rests on a tall monument, both dark green against a medium green background. A bright red bulldog breaks up the monochromatic layout. The face displayed on the monument, framed over the engraved initials E. L. , belongs to none other than Edward Lear!

In fact, Radunsky includes Lear's caricature in several places throughout the book -- throwing up his hands in alarm at a spilled bottle of ink, running in fright from a tiny mouse. Although children may not understand the somewhat irreverent honor paid to the originator of An Edward Lear Alphabet, they will nonetheless appreciate the silly, fun-to-read rhymes more than a century after they first appeared in print.

The books highlighted this week are available in most bookstores. If you are unable to locate the book, ask your bookseller to order it for you or contact the publisher directly.

  • Miss Spider's ABC, written and illustrated by David Kirk, is published by Scholastic Press, a division of Scholastic Inc. Call 1-800-SCHOLASTIC.
  • Amazing Animal Alphabet, written by Richard Edwards and illustrated by Sue Hendra, is published by Orchard Books, 95 Madison Avenue, New York NY 10016.
  • A Is for Salad, written and illustrated by Mike Lester, is published by Penguin & Grosset Group, a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014.
  • Obvious Letters, written by Gisela Hausmann and illustrated by Ozzie Pardillo, is published by Educ-Easy Books, P.O. Box 2901, Key Largo, FL 33037.
  • An Edward Lear Alphabet, written by Edward Lear and illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky, is published by HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019.

Lauren P. Gattilia
Education World®
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