“Once Upon An Alphabet” by Oliver Jeffers


If you think it is just another ABC book, you are up for a surprise. After all, it is written by the world’s favorite storyteller. If Oliver Jeffers is the author, it must be a book with a unique story. Or 26 masterful stories. One for each letter.

From a story about Edmund, the astronaut who wanted to explore space but was afraid of heights, to a story about a cup who had a fatal dream of leaving the cupboard a little tale about Hellen living in half a house, until she woke up on the wrong side of bed, Jemima and her jelly door, or an owl who just kept moving onward, the readers are up for something unpredictable, hilarious and totally ingenious, letter by letter. And then add to it Jeffers’s inimitable, minimalist and humorous pictures! “Once upon an Alphabet” is definitely a  reading treat for the little readers (and their parents alike).





Now I know my ABC’s…

Math might be thee science to land you a highly paid job, but it is the language skills that will help you to negotiate your six digit salary.   Even if you are a science snob, take Sheldon Cooper for example, you can’t deny the importance of studying the language.  Language means books and books mean knowledge and erudition.  What’s more, if you combine the above with eloquence and charisma,  you arrive at a great public speaker or a leader. Then add foreign language knowledge to the mix and you can communicate, or help to communicate across cultures. In other words, paying attention during language classes pays off. Good grades in English, Spanish, German, Chinese, Polish…. or whatever lingua they try to teach you at school, and your possibilities are endless.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  My blog is meant for parents of the picture books readers. Some of them still need to master their  ABC’s. And this is what today’s books are about. Our ABC’s. In English, we are talking about 26 letters of the alphabet, in some other languages there are a few letters more. . If your child complains that it is  a lot,  tell them about the  hundreds (or thousands?)Chinese characters.

Today’s books are a fun way of helping your child remember the alphabet, recognize the shapes and sounds ( welcome to the world of phonics!)  You might have noticed that bookstores and libraries are  full of ABC’s books. Are they so easy to write or are they so important, you might have wondered? I think a little bit of both. It’s important to find the right one for your child. Not all ABC’s books are the same for every child. The alphabet is an abstract concept so the book needs to appeal to children’s interests. The following worked for my son.

“Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault.

A greatly amusing and creatively written rhyme about the lively letters of alphabet racing to the top of the coconut tree. The whole run ends up in a big tumble and lots of bruises. For a broader summary of this book, please, refer to my earlier post.  (post 129, Oct/2011)

“V is for Vanishing”by Patricia Mullins

This book is a typical alphabet book, but the words that are used to illustrate the beginning letters are all names of endangered animals. My son was as captivated as sad that  Jaguar is disappearing in South America, and that you don’t see many Pandas in China or Great Indian Rhinos in India. He was especially moved by the letter “X” when he got to read about extinct animals. So was I by the way. One thing is to hear about the long gone dinosaurs, but if you read  that the Passenger Pigeon was around until a century ago,  then you start thinking about how many of the currently endangered species will be extinct by the end of the 21st century..

“A is for Zebra” by Mark Shulman

What I love about this book is that it brings the ABC’s to another level. Instead of focusing on the beginning letters, it exposes the letters at  the end of the words. “I is for sushi…, K is for tick… O is for Go!” Isn’t that a clever take on the alphabet? Definitely different and so much more challenging and interesting for a child who has already mastered the beginning sounds and is bored with the alphabet.

Happy reading!  In the next posts I will have some more books about language in use, foreign languages, the reading bug and more.

T is for Good Night!

35. “Little Bitty Mousie” by Jim Aylesworth

If you like books that both entertain and educate children, this book has it all. The delightful story accompanied by crisp, colorful pictures by Michael Hague triggers an instantaneous glee from the very first pages, and your child is learning the alphabet without even knowing it.

A curious little mouse,  that reminds me a bit of Angelina Ballerina, “crept into a house one night to see what she could see.” She came across an Apple, Butter, Carrot….Jelly, Ketchup, Lipstick… I am not going to reveal all the little finds, but I assume you already know what letters the things will start with. I can only add that the most thrilling discovery hides under the letter Z. It will make the little mouse “run run run running!”

The story is written in rhyme which make it very easy to memorize for children, so they can “read” it with you. Besides, it contains a refrain: “Tip-tip tippy tippy went her little mousie toes. Sniff-sniff sniffy sniffy went her little mousie nose.” It is such a wonderful addition to this already melodic script. 

The alphabet that was so cleverly smuggled into the story is a perfect tool for practicing letters and phonics. Every page is basically a flash card with a word and a picture. I ask my son what he can see, then we read the first letter of the word and debate what sound it makes. We also try to memorize all the things that the mouse has seen in the correct order. It’s amazing how much with this book without boring your children, isn’t it?