I love a good alphabet book, I have quite a substantial collection. The prospect of a new one makes me pretty excited. I like the idea that a simple concept can be interpreted in many ways. Don’t get me wrong, the good ones are fighting for attention in a sea of cutesy, naff, regurgitated ‘A is for Apple’ alphabet nightmare. But if you look in the right places you will find some that deserve to be written about by creative review or awarded a D&AD pencil for their ingenuity and design.
Here is a selection of my favourite alphabet books.
Alphabet by Paul Thurlby
Discover an alphabet like no other! In his first children’s book, highly-collected graphic artist Paul Thurlby creates an amazing world where each letter of the alphabet becomes its word. From B for bounce, with two bouncy balls, to Y for yoga, with a stretching yoga instructor, this is a stunning alphabet that helps to make the shape of each letter memorable for first readers. Amazon
A Zeal of Zebras by Woop
An embarrassment of pandas, a galaxy of starfish, a shiver of sharks…these are all collective nouns used to describe their groups. Woop Studios, acclaimed for their work on the Harry Potter movies, has illustrated these quirky phrases, creating a series of extraordinarily beautiful art that has been collected here for the first time. The colorful introduction to animals and the alphabet is accessible for young children, while the gorgeous, whimsical art and clever wordplay make it perfect for design-savvy parents and inspired gift givers. Longer than the standard picture book, with high design and production values, this is a volume readers will want on their coffee tables in addition to their child’s bookshelf. Chronicle Books
Alphablock By Christopher Franceschelli, illustrated by Peskimo
With thick pages cut into the shape of each letter, children and parents will enjoy this peek-through guessing game around the letterform itself. Sprinkles, hot fudge, and cherries hint at I’s ice cream sundae, while aquarium accessories hint at F’s fish. As readers interact with the pages, they will familiarize themselves not only with the 26 letters and associated words, but also with each letter’s physicality—angles, holes, and curves, both front and back. With Peskimo’s animated, stylish visuals, this fresh ABC book encourages readers to manipulate the alphabet in a whole new way. Note: illustrations have a retro feel, with imperfect variations in color and texture. Abrams Books
A Railway Alphabet by Jack Townend
A Railway ABC is a behind-the-scenes look at the workings of the railroad. Townend’s endearing lithograph illustrations – in both colour and monochrome – are accompanied by a gently humorous and whimsical text that will captivate children and adults alike. Waterstones
Jungle ABC by Michael Roberts
Designed as both collector’s item for art and fashion enthusiasts, and an educational tool for children, this ABC features orchids, parrots, snakes and wildebeest. It contains the 26 letters of the alphabet illustrated with cut-out paper collages dancing with African colours and rhythms. Amazon
Anteater to Zebras by Alan Fletcher
Alan Fletcher (1931 – 2006) is one of the most influential and respected figures in British design. Famous for the high profile work he created within Pentagram of which he was a co-founder, Fletcher became renowned as one of the most creative graphic designers on the British scene.
Anteaters to Zebras, created the year before his untimely death in 2006, is the first children’s book by Alan Fletcher to be published in the UK. Originally designed with Fletcher’s grandson in mind, the book is a creative, playful and witty introduction to the alphabet, expressing the pleasure he took in turning work and play into the same activity.
Children and adults alike will delight win Fletcher’s series of brightly coloured animals illustrating the letters of the alphabet and in his infectious sense of fun. Tate Shop
A Child’s Day, An Alphabet of Play by Ida Pearle
Artist Ida Pearle gives readers a way to play for every letter in the alphabet. A is for act–curtains up! B is for blow–pinwheel ready! And C is for catch–butterflies beware! Ida’s cut-paper collages are the perfect mix of vintage and modern, comfort and inspiration. Her images of children–on tiptoe, on a zebra, dancing, and jumping–are full of grace and flow. And her distinctive patterns and striking designs spring from page to page. Perfect for both children and adults, this extraordinary alphabet book will add a dash of whimsy and style to any bookshelf. Amazon