Do you remember the alphabets books you read as a child? We conjure up images of dancing letters, bold colorful illustrations, and rhymes that matched the letters marching across pages. There’s something magical about the way books celebrating the 26 letters of the alphabet draw in young readers. They help encourage a playfulness with letters, inviting kids to enjoy the connections between the sounds and the symbols they have come to see and know. The list below is a hodge-podge of some of our current favorites meant to build on the “starter” ABC list on the Infants and Toddlers page. You’ll find ABC books with weird and intriguing story lines, some by well-known authors, and a few that are just plain fun.
An A to Z Walk in the Park (Animal Alphabet Book) by R. M. Smith
Starting with the letter A, readers meet over 200 different animals that correspond with alphabet letters. Some of the creatures are familiar, while others are exotic. In the richly illustrated imaginary park, children can follow and learn the names of animals as they are exploring the ABC’s. With all the language play, these verses are fun for parents as well as children.
Peanut Butter And Jellyfishes: A Very Silly Alphabet Book by Brian P. Cleary, illustrated by Betsy E. Snyder
Each letter of the alphabet is hidden in the illustrations of this alphabet book. The word pictures as sentences are as wacky as the bright and colorful collages: K has kilt-wearing kittens, as well as kangaroos kissing. There are details to pore over, and a kind of “Where’s Waldo?” compulsion to find all 10 N’s or 6 Z’s, as listed on the end pages. Another plus: the printing is big and bright, easy to read and recognize, and the verses are lots of fun.
The Sweet and Sour Animal Book by Langston Hughes (Author), George P. Cunningham (Contributor), students from the Harlem School of the Arts (Illustrator), Ben Vereen (Introduction)
Twenty-six newly discovered alphabet animal poems by Langston Hughes, one the most important poets of the 20th century are illustrated by the 3-D art of young children in Harlem. Full color photographs of the artwork illustrate each gem of a poem. Hugh’s alphabet poems have his signature wit and imagination.
The Underwater Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta, illustrated by Edgar Stewart
Jerry Pallotta has a whole world of alphabet books on a variety of different topics. This one explores the theme of the tropical ocean ecological system. Life underwater on a coral reef is illustrated from Angelfish to Zebra pipefish. Children love the intriguing creatures, and older readers learn fascinating facts and research about an unseen world. This is an alphabet book that will retain it’s place on your bookshelf long after kids know their A-B-C’s. This is a terrific book to complement a trip to your local aquarium!
Alphabet by Matthew Van Fleet
Yes, Matthew Fleet creates much-loved “touch and feel” books for the youngest of babies. But pre-schoolers still delight in running their fingers over different textures as they explore learning the alphabet, making this alphabet book a good choice even for children used to books with more words and storyline. In this humorous rhyming text, young readers are invited to find four animals or plants that begin with each letter of the alphabet. Like the author’s other popular books–Tails and Dog—Alphabet is filled with different textures, pull-flaps, pop-ups and scratch and sniff scents.
The Alphabet Tree by Leo Lionni
We love Leo Lionni’s brilliant metaphorical story of the power of the word in a democratic society. Wordbug and purple caterpillar teach the letters of the alphabet how they can be stronger when they work together and create words, then whole sentences. The notion of the Alphabet Tree is also a terrific teaching tool as young children begin to solve the written language puzzle.
Alligators All Around by Maurice Sendak
Who wouldn’t love an alphabet book with pages like “N” for Never Napping or “P” for Pushing People, all illustrated with endearing and personality-filled alligators? We especially appreciate the oh-so-cultivated alligator who leads readers through the delightful powers of the alphabet. Sendak’s special artistic voice is immediately recognizable, reminding readers of Where the Wild Things Are as the alligators strut across the pages. The words are also set to music in a song in Really Rosie, a musical written by Sendak, with music by Carole King. You can watch a little bit of it here, on the Really Rosie 1975 Television Special. (The whole clip is 9 minutes long. The alligator alphabet song begins at 6 minutes and 30 seconds.)
Z Goes Home by Jon Agee
Creativity and humor are the hallmarks of Jon Agee’s work, and this alphabet book is no exception. Like all the other letters, Z has a job to do, but at the end of day, he climbs down from the ZOO sign and wanders through a city filled with alphabet letters hidden in very bizarre scenes. A fun and original way to explore the alphabet.
Alphabeep!: A Zipping, Zooming ABC by Debora Pearson, illustrated by Edward Miller
For the kids that love everything about trucks and cars and machines on the road. (See also our Trucks book list.) This brightly illustrated alphabet book is packed with vehicles and people in action. Young children love learning new words like zamboni as well as recognizing their favorite like vans and tractors. An added bonus is the list of web-sites for downloading upper and lower case letters as well as road signs and truck cut-outs.