Now I Know My ABCs: Books About the Alphabet
There are some fun and funny alphabet picture books out there, many of them new, and I had fun picking some out for this week's Family Storytime. All four of the books I read were snatched up immediately, and they each went home with different children at the end…always a good sign!
123 versus ABC by Mike Boldt
Number 1 is pleased to introduce this book about numbers until Letter A shows up arguing that it's really an alphabet story. The argument is complicated by the arrival of 1 Alligator, 2 Bears in 3 Cars...you get the picture. The illustrations are hilarious (the kids all loved the picture of the geese eating hot dogs and ice cream), and there's a funny twist at the end that calls both their arguments into question.
Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky
This is probably my favorite alphabet book. It starts out very simply, and it's fun to have the kids chime in on the opening letters: A is for Apple, B is for Ball, C is for Cat. But then the eager Moose butts in, begging to be featured, and interrupting all the other letters. When Zebra (who is running the show) decides to go with Mouse for M instead, Moose throws an enormous tantrum and starts putting his name (and drawing antlers) on everything. Hilarious!
I Stink by Kate and Jim McMullan
This is terrific read-aloud that works great as both an alphabet book, and a book for kids who love big trucks. This truck is big and tough and eats your trash for breakfast. Burp!! The alphabet part comes in when we find out all the things the truck eats, a list that includes Dirty Diapers, Puppy Poo, and Ugly Underpants. Oh, how the kids loved that part! Ewwww City!
Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel
This was my son's favorite book when he was three, and he has loved every Bad Kitty book since (Bruel now has a series of Bad Kitty chapter books that are hilarious. They are wonderful for second and third graders to read on their own, but with enough illustrations to read aloud to preschoolers. I read them with my daughter when she was three, and she begged to hear them over and over again).
This first Bad Kitty book opens with the line, "She wasn't always a bad kitty," and goes on to tell about the terrible day when Kitty's owners ran out of cat food and tried to feed her vegetables. There are four alphabetical lists: first the foods that Kitty hates (Asparagus, Beets, Cauliflower, etc.); then all the things she does when she turns bad (Ate my homework, Bit Grandma, Clawed the Curtains...); followed by the foods that make Kitty happy (An Assortment of Anchovies, Buffalo Burritos...); and finally, all the things that Kitty does when she turns good again (Apologized to Grandma, Bought me new toys, Cleaned her Cat Box, Drove me to School...). It's a bit long, but the kids hung in there, mostly because the illustrations and ideas are so funny (my favorite is the cat washing the car with her tongue). This one got snatched up immediately, and other kids were sad I didn't have extra copies.
Other Amazing Alphabet Books
I polled my friends, who include both children's librarians and parents with a lot of experience reading to their own kids, to find out their favorite alphabet books. They came up with some wonderful suggestions:
Several friends (including children's librarian Barbara Amberg and local mom, Tina Williams) recommended the classic Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault and Lois Ehlert. A told B and B told C, "I'll meet you at the top of the coconut tree." With bright, simple illustrations and an unforgettable rhyme, this is one of the best alphabet books ever written.
Max's ABC by Rosemary Wells
Cute story that works well as a read-aloud for toddlers and preschoolers, even if you don't mention the alphabet. Max's Ants escape from the ant farm and Bite Bite Bite, until Max's sister Ruby finds away to get rid of them. All of the events of the story are in alphabetical order, but Wells manages to make this work without seeming forced. Max and Ruby are always a big hit.
Crictor by Tomi Ungerer
Recommended by Kim Day, a children's librarian in Burlingame, California. Wonderful book for your reptile lover, about a fabulously long snake who comes in handy when two burglars come to call. The alphabet part comes in when Crictor demonstrates the shapes of different letters.
Dr. Seuss' ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book by Dr. Seuss
The favorite of my friend Neely Dean's daughter. How can you go wrong with Dr. Seuss? Funny illustrations, wacky ideas (a Camel on the Ceiling), and a catchy rhyme. Plus it shows both the capital and lower case letters, as well as giving multiple sounds for the same letter.
26 Letters and 99 Cents by Tana Hoban
Recommended by Michael Lambert, San Mateo County's Deputy Director of Library Services. This is an alphabet and counting book in one, with bright, colorful photographs of both capital and lower case letters next to an object that begins with that letter. I've noticed that a lot of alphabet books try to draw the letters in clever or artistic ways that are fun, but aren't necessarily the best way to introduce them. This one is both appealing to kids, and very clear. The counting side of the book shows how to represent the numbers from 1 to 99 using different groups of coins: perfect for teaching addition or money values.
The Sleepy Little Alphabet by Judy Sierra; illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Recommended by Ashley Waring, a children's librarian in Reading, Massachusetts. I had never seen this one before, but it is oh so cute! It's bedtime for the lower case letters, but of course none of them want to go to sleep. "Uh oh! a is wide awake. And b still has a bath to take." The illustrations are goofy and fun.
LMNO Peas by Keith Baker
This one was recommended by both Ashley Waring, and Kim W., who directs a preschool in Alabama, so I will have to add it to my repertoire! Adorable alphabet peas demonstrate their amazing skills for every letter: "We're acrobats, artists, and astronauts in space. We're builders, bathers, and bikers in a race." Definitely a more exciting take on the usual "A is for Apple" style books.
Alphabet Mystery by Audrey Wood and Bruce Wood
Another favorite of Kim W., and by one of my all-time favorite authors, so I'll definitely be getting this one too. Every night at bedtime, Charley's alphabet says their names, just for fun. But one night, little x is missing. The letters must fly on a pencil to look for their friend, and find him in the castle of Master M. To their surprise, they find he is happier there because Charley never used him. But one of the letters knows a secret to bring him home.
ABCDrive! A Car Trip Alphabet by Naomi Howland
Wonderful recommendation by Barbara Bruxvoort, a children's librarian in San Bruno, California. This one works great for car fans and Bay Area locals. Each letter represents something a child might see while out on a drive: an Ambulance, a Bus, a Cement Mixer. Set in San Francisco, it might make for a fun game to take out on the road and see how many of the objects you can find in real life.
What are your favorite alphabet books?
Photo credit: abbybatchelder.
Ashley Larsen is a children's librarian at the Pacifica-Sharp Park and Pacifica-Sanchez Libraries. To read more of her book recommendations and storytime ideas, visit her blog, The Loudest Librarian.