Tag: alphabet

Review: Beautiful Birds by Jean Roussen

beautiful birds

Beautiful Birds by Jean Roussen, illustrated by Emmanuelle Walker

This alphabet book features one amazing bird after another shown in both playful and gorgeous illustrations. The book is told in rhyming couplets that feature a little information about each species of bird. The birds are exotic, featuring jacana, kakapo, and quetzal. They are mixed with backyard birds like robin, geese, nuthatches, and woodpeckers. Each one is given their own page on which to shine.

The rhyming couplets create a book that has a jaunty swing to it, moving swiftly from one bird to the next. The rhymes are well done, neither filled with sing-song tones or too forced. Instead they add a touch of humor to the book, a feeling of not taking themselves too seriously. The result is a light-hearted mix of silliness and feathers.

The illustrations by Walker form the heart of this book. Each page displays plumage with a grand style. Done with a modern feel, the illustrations are stylized and strong. One of my favorite pages has the color of doves changing to ducks along the page break.

Stylish, jaunty and fun, this alphabet bird book is no feather weight. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Flying Eye Books.

Review: Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers

once upon an alphabet

Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters by Oliver Jeffers

This unusual and equally marvelous alphabet book surprises and delights with its 26 short stories, one for each letter of the alphabet.  From the very beginning at “A” readers will know they have entered a rather quirky and surreal world.  A is for Astronaut, but Edmund is an astronaut whose afraid of heights.  Even climbing the ladder to the rocket is a bit much for him.  B comes right in afterwards with a tale of a burning bridge where Bob and Bernard cannot get along and so burn the bridge between their houses, but oops, one of them is on the wrong side when he does it.  The book continues, one letter after another and one story after another each with funny, intriguing characters and situations that are snapshots of the oddities of this amazing world. 

Jeffers has created some of my favorite picture books for children and this new alphabet book completely revolutionizes the sing-song of other alphabet books for children.  It’s not exclusively for preschoolers, since elementary-aged children will adore these strange little stories and the quick journeys they take you on.  Rather like potato chips, you can’t read just one but find yourself going on and on.  Jeffers also ties in previous stories to later ones.  You have to be watching, because he does it with subtlety, but it’s a lovely touch.  I admit to cheering aloud when the Lumberjack for the Letter L appeared again.

Jeffers’ art has a loose feel that works well here.  He also has a quirk to his art that matches the tone of the story very nicely.  The line drawings combine with touches of color and watercolor.  He also plays at times with the page itself, showing characters turning the page or popping out from behind. 

A delight of an alphabet book, Jeffers has revolutionized the genre with his impressive, surprising and funny work. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Philomel.

Review: Take Away the A by Michael Escoffier

take away the a

Take Away the A by Michael Escoffier, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo

A delightful new approach to the alphabet book, this picture book goes through the alphabet and offers words where you take away a letter and get a new word.  So, for example, for letter A, “beast” becomes “best” when you take the A out.  The concept is a simple one, but handled superbly throughout so that it never becomes repetitive or dull.  Instead there is a wonderful humor that pervades the entire book.  Look forward to the end of the alphabet where the simple premise of the book becomes much trickier to pull off, and of course the Z is not to be missed. 

This is the first book by this French author/illustrator team that was not translated from French.  This book with its word play was written in English and offers art and text that is entirely original.  Still, the book has that certain French flair to it that marks their collaborative work.  Escoffier’s word play makes it all look so easy, but young readers will quickly learn that it is not as they try to come up with their own, particularly certain letters.

Di Giacomo’s art is a large part of the European feel of this book.  Her illustrations here tell a story on the page, as if the reader has interrupted a scene in motion by opening the book to that page.  The animals seem to be relating to one another more than to the reader, just waiting for them to go away so that they can begin speaking again.

Clever and deceptively simple, this is a great alphabet book for youngsters who have been read too many as well as elementary children who enjoy word play.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books

Review: B Is for Box by David A. Carter

b is for box

B Is for Box by David A. Carter

With the happy little box on the cover smiling at you, this book is impossible not to want to open and explore.  It is made all the more enticing by being a David Carter pop-up book.  Happily this alphabet pop-up does not disappoint.  Done in a simple style, the pop-up features are mostly about pulling tabs or turning wheels.  There is a small finale at the end, but don’t expect large elaborate pop-ups in this little book.  Instead they are just right for small hands to explore and not damage.  Built of heavy paper stock, this pop-up would make a good one to start small children on the wonders of books that turn into 3D.

Carter’s text is has a lively lilt to it and carries nicely throughout the alphabet.  There are no huge surprises here in the text, the delight mainly comes from the pop-ups, the tabs and the levers.  Though simple, they have a strong appeal, just as opening the flaps on the pages do too. 

Careful toddlers will enjoy this book that will dance them through the ABCs with ease.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Little Simon.

Review: Eerie Dearies by Rebecca Chaperon

eerie dearies

Eerie Dearies: 26 Ways to Miss School by Rebecca Chaperon

Don’t expect your sunshiny ABC book here!  Instead you get to enter a creepy world where each letter of the alphabet is paired with a way to miss school.  Just to make sure you know what you are getting into, the book begins with A is for Astral Projection paired with a picture of a girl floating off the page.  The images are haunted and dark, yet with a quirky sense of humor as well.  The book goes on with the alphabet with C is for Contagious, K is for Kidnapping, and M is for Mononucleosis.  It all ends with Z is for Zombie Apocalypse. 

This book certainly is not for everyone.  But for those kids who enjoy a shiver along with their ABCs, this is a perfect picture book.  I was one of those strange kids myself and would have adored this picture book as a child.  The art is creepy, showing children without heads and clearly hearkening back to Edward Gorey and gothic horror.  Yet there is no blood on any of the pages, so it’s not graphic in any way.

This book will work well around Halloween, but thanks to its sense of humor will please haunted children throughout the year.  Appropriate for ages 6 and up.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: 123 versus ABC by Mike Boldt

123 vs ABC

123 versus ABC by Mike Boldt

The letters and numbers just can’t agree in this book!  Is it a counting book or an alphabet book?  You will just have to read on to figure it out.  As the pages turn, it just gets more confusing.  Sure the first animal to appear is an Alligator, but there is just One.  Then there are Two Bears, Three Cars, and on and on it goes.  The book is narrated by the number one and the letter A, both of them arguing over what the book is really about.  Happily, they are both right in this mash up of an alphabet and counting book that is funny, silly and a romp of a read.

Boldt manages to make a counting and alphabet book that has a real freshness to it.  A large part of the success is in the humor, much of which is contributed by the two main characters, A and 1.  There little rivalry and clever asides add to the tension of the premise but also resolve in the end to something much more friendly.

Boldt’s art is bright colored and pays homage to vintage picture books.  The two main characters have a cartoon-like appeal to them with their broad expressions and Mickey Mouse gloves.  Boldt makes good use of white space throughout the book, allowing the mix of alphabet and numbers space to breathe on the page, something that becomes particularly important as the pages get more crowded.

Fresh and funny, this is one clever mash-up of ABCs and 123s that will appeal to every child who likes a lot of laughs.  It will work well with preschoolers who will enjoy the jokes as they review the content.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

Everything Goes by Brian Biggs

everything goes in the air

Everything Goes in the Air by Brian Biggs

Brian Biggs has several new books out which is great news for youngsters who love cars, trucks and airplanes.  Everything Goes in the Air takes Henry and his family on an airplane ride.  Readers get to  visit a bustling airport, where they can search for lost babies.  From vintage airplanes to modern ones, we learn about the different parts of a place and the various types they come in.  Modern airport security is explained, then the book turns to helicopters and hot air balloons.  Just before takeoff, children get to see inside the cockpit and marvel at the crowded airspace.  Then it’s up, up and away!

Biggs’ crowded pages show the hustle and hurry of an airport.  His friendly art and seek-and-find activities will keep children busy exploring the pages.  Information is given in small bits, mostly through conversations that are shown in cartoon bubbles.  This is a marvelously fun and exciting way to explore airplanes and airports.

A great pick for a plane ride, or to help prepare children for an upcoming flight, this book has such detailed illustrations that it is best shared with just one child at a time.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

everything goes 123 everything goes stop go

Everything Goes: 123 Beep Beep Beep!: A Counting Book by Brian Biggs

Everything Goes: Stop! Go!: A Book of Opposites by Brian Biggs

These two board books simplify the busy style of Biggs into books that are more appropriate for toddlers.  Here the bright colors and cartoon-style illustrations pop.  The counting book goes up to ten, each page offering a different sort of vehicle to count.  They range from RVs to busses.  The opposites book again uses vehicles to show things like dirty and clean, old and new, ending with stop and go. 

Very young children who enjoy cars, trucks and other vehicles will love these board books.  Expect the basic text to be accompanied with lots of motor sounds from the audience!  Appropriate for ages 1-3.

All items reviewed from copies received from Balzer + Bray.