Friday, 6 February 2015

Best Books: Fun with the Alphabet

Books for children serve many different purposes. They teach a love of reading, an appreciation for storytelling, empathy, literacy - the list goes on and on. While every book helps in development, some books are more obviously didactic, like the classic alphabet book. An introduction to letters is the first step towards independent reading, and publishers have been expanding their offerings as of late. Sometimes, you want something that goes beyond the basic "A is for Apple" alphabet books and are ready to delve into a more creative territory. If that's the case, I strongly recommend you check out these titles. 

Note: I usually have a "What's it About?" section in my Best Books posts, but in this case, I've left that out as they aren't traditionally structured stories. 

Book: Once Upon an Alphabet / Oliver Jeffers

What Makes it Great?
This collection of 26 different short stories (one for each letter of the alphabet) is fun for both adults and children. The illustrations are classic Jeffers, simple and adorable pictures that both depict and enhance the text. The stories are absurd vignettes which highlight vocabulary for each letter while making you laugh out loud. I cannot recommend this book enough.

*My husband, who was hesitant to let me purchase this book at full price, reads this book aloud to our 12 week old and has even given it the following review: "This book is amazing and hilarious. It goes into the list of the greats, like The Stinky Cheese Man." [ed. note: written by Jon Scieszka]

Book: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom / Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault

What Makes it Great?
This is now a classic book, recommended by children's librarians everywhere. The book introduces kids to a personified alphabet with rhyme, action, and onomatopoeia. Using a simple story structure, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom goes through all 26 letters (twice!) in a way that doesn't feel repetitive or boring, but is memorable beyond the traditional song. Check out this book with your 2-5 year old toddler or preschooler and find out together whether or not there will be enough room atop the coconut tree for all the letters A through Z!

Book: ABC of Canada / Per-Henrik Gurth

What Makes it Great?
These days, you can find an alphabet book on almost any topic from dance to things found on the construction site. If you want your alphabet book to do teaching double duty, consider this title which introduces children to the many wonders found in our home and native land, Canada. This book does a great job of highlighting things across the country (it can't be accused of putting Ontario above everyone else). To boot, the simple pictures offer big visual impact, with the use of primary colours and thick black outlining.

Book: Animalia / Graeme Base

What Makes it Great?
For an older crowd (ages 4-7), Animalia is a visual feast that will keep kids interested for hours. Graeme Base treats the alphabet right, giving each letter its own intricately designed illustration and alliterative sentence combo. Its difficult to explain the level of detail that has gone into each image in this book, and you're bound to discover something new upon each viewing. Take an afternoon to soak up the "Lazy Lions Lounging in the Local Library" and the "Richly Robed Rhinoceroses Riding in Rickety Red Rickshaws"... you'll be glad you did.

What's your child's favourite alphabet book? Let us know in the comments below.

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