When my younger son, Nathan, was 3, I realized that not all alphabet books were alike. While browsing in the library, we found The Handmade Alphabet by Laura Rankin. The great thing about this book is that it covered not only the printed alphabet, but also the signing alphabet. Each page contained a beautifully drawn hand making the signed letter, with the hand holding something that started with that letter. I was especially interested in this book for Nathan, because he had a birth injury to the nerves in his right arm, and we spent time each day using this book as muscle therapy for his fine motor skills. The Handmade Alphabet is an oldie, but still a definite goodie.
I like alphabet books because they usually don’t just teach the alphabet. Rather, they use the alphabet as a framework in which to tell a story or to provide information. The ones in this posting are recent, but I’ll include some of my older favorites in the bibliography below.
An Annoying ABC tells about a quiet morning in school. Quiet, that is, until Adelaide annoys Bailey, who blames Clyde, who cries…all the way to Zelda, who zaps Adelaide. And when Adelaide apologizes, so does everyone else. The illustrations are great, a lesson is very gently learned, and each child is unique with spot-on expressions.
In Apple Pie ABC, a small dog watches a young girl Bake an apple pie and Cool it and Dish it out. He is so Eager for it. But when he tries to reach it, he gets in trouble. Will this mischievous little pup ever get a taste of that pie? The story is short and sweet, and the illustrations are simple and funny.
On the copyright and dedication pages of Z Is for Moose, Zebra has lined up all of the animals and objects in alphabetical order, so they will be ready for their turn. By the time we get to “D”, Moose is so excited that he jumps in, and Zebra needs to shoo him off. Moose interrupts again and again. Finally it is time for M…but when he finds out that “M is for Mouse,” he is disappointed and upset. Moose is a typical kid that just wants to be noticed, and Zelinsky’s scenes are hilarious.
An Edible Alphabet : 26 Reasons to Love the Farm provides information about farming and agriculture. Short lines of text can be read to kids in preschool through first grade, while older students can learn all about crops that are grown and the animals that live on the farm—even the bugs! Poems, jokes, and trivia boxes add to the fascinating facts and attractive layout. Did you know that the most yolks ever found in one egg was NINE?!
S Is for Scientists : A Discovery Alphabet and other alphabet books from Sleeping Bear Press are also written for a wide range of grades. Poems that describe facts, terms, and people relating to important scientific discoveries can be read aloud to younger students, while older students can read the additional material or use it for reports.
I love words, and collective nouns are some of the most fun. In A Zeal of Zebras : An Alphabet of Collective Nouns, kids not only learn about different animals and the kinds of groups they live in, but are introduced to some great vocabulary words—an implausibility of gnus, a kaleidoscope of butterflies, an ostentation of peacocks, and more. And other terms—such as a hum of bees and a leap of leopards—are lots of fun. Each graphic illustration gives a great visual interpretation of its collective noun.
And finally, LMNO Peas is an entertaining blend of the alphabet, work and play, and peas. Acrobat peas, biking peas (complete with helmets and water bottles), camping peas roasting marshmallows over a fire, driving peas (even one with a flat tire), and so on, show us how they “work and play in the ABCs.” We had a hoot reading this book and can’t wait to see Baker’s 1-2-3 Peas when it comes out in July.
Bibliography of some of my favorite alphabet books, old and new:
An Annoying ABC by Barbara Bottner (ill. Michael Emberley). 2011.
Apple Pie ABC by Alison Murray. 2011.
Country Road ABC : An Illustrated Journey Through America’s Farmland by Arthur Geisert. 2010.
The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman (ill. Gris Grimly). 2008.
An Edible Alphabet : 26 Reasons to Love the Farm by Carol Watterson (ill. by Michela Sorrentino). 2011.
A Fabulous Fair Alphabet by Debra Frasier. 2010.
If Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered Alphabet by Leslie McGuirk. 2011.
The Handmade Alphabet by Laura Rankin. 1996.
LMNO Peas by Keith Baker. 2010.
Minnesota’s Hidden Alphabet by David LaRochelle (phot. Joe Rossi). 2011.
Old Black Fly by Jim Aylesworth (ill. Stephen Gammell). 1991.
S Is for Scientists : A Discovery Alphabet by Larry Verstraete (ill. David Geister). 2010.
Z Is for Moose by Kelly Bingham (ill. Paul O. Zelinsky). 2012.
A Zeal of Zebras : An Alphabet of Collective Nouns by Woop Studios. 2011.