Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run!: An Alphabet Caper by Mike Twohy published in 2016 by Balzer + Bray
A is for Asleep. One little mouse, asleep in his recliner in his quiet mouse-house.
B is for Ball. A big, orange, tennis ball bounces through his doorway most abruptly!
C is for Catch. Not that he has much choice when that ball snoodles him right in the stomach. Oof!
How did that ball happen by? Well, D is for Dog, whose snuffly nose blurts its way through his doorway next, seeking that orange toy.
On with the adventure. An entirely alphabetical adventure for this unlikely pair.
New Yorker cartoonist Mike Twohy is brilliant at capturing story and personality with a few confident marks on the page. The text accompanying the illustrations moves along with (mostly) just one word for each letter, and those 26 words tell a zesty and surprising story! Great fun for ages Two and up.
Celestino Piatti’s Animal ABC, illustrated by (obviously) Celestino Piatti, text by Hans Schumacher, translation by Jon Reid first published in Switzerland in 1965; this edition published 2015 by North-South Books
Celestino Piatti was a celebrated Swiss artist who worked in graphic design from the 1940s onward. His handsome images are absolutely show-stopping. Vigorous, thick black line commands the page. Emphatic shapes, artful textures, and robust color collaborate to create these arresting forms.
The briefest of quatrains accompany each animal, so cleverly composed and translated to keep the rhyme. For example: When tiger growls/to be caressed/Just ask what he/Thinks tastiest So clever, right?
It’s a book you might be tempted to cut up and plaster on your walls, and no one could blame you. A masterful combination of the arts of design and poetry for ages 3 and up.
Welcome to My Neighborhood! : A Barrio ABC by Quiara Alegria Hudes, illustrated by Shino Arihara published in 2010 by Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic
Hear the sound of that cool water gushing from the hydrant on this hot day? Smell the tantalizing aroma of roast pork from windows open all down the block?
It’s your lucky day because we have two children to guide us through the streets of this urban, Puerto Rican neighborhood, meeting an abuela here, watching muralists at work there, listening to “los jibaros jamming in the jungle of concrete.”
It’s an upbeat, welcome foray into a culture unfamiliar to many of us, sure to spark interest and appreciation for kids ages 3 and up. Shino Arihara’s textured-cement vibe and warm, neighborly figures cast a superb, contemporary atmosphere.
The City ABC Book, photographed by Zoran Milich published in 2001 by Kids Can Press
New York-based photojournalist Zoran Milich has covered everything from the Velvet Revolution in the former Czechoslovakia to Fashion Week in NYC, but perhaps most gratifying for those with small children is a series of books he published with Kids Can Press out of Canada.
A talented photographer has such a knack of seeing — seeing perspectives and views that are in front of us all, but that we don’t see until they take a camera, frame the shot, and click! — Now we see what they see.
This incredibly clever series of black-and-white, urban photos has alphabet shapes, discovered by Milich, highlighted in red. It’s a joyful perspective on what is possible to see, and I think if you share it with your kids, they will begin seeing in new ways as well. Milich has also published City 123, City Colors, and City Signs if you want to further explore his work.
Almost an Animal Alphabet, by Katie Viggers first published in Great Britain; this edition published 2010 by POW!
Okay, I’m crazy about Katie Viggers drawings in this book. Flip through the pages and you’ll come face to face with brawny line, coy expression, handsome figure, humorous touch. Every page is crammed with personality!
And yes, we cruise through the alphabet meeting quite the variety of animals. Not just a bear, but a line-up of bears. A Sun Bear. A Polar Bear. A Black Bear. A Panda Bear. And — hello there! — a spectacled bear perusing the news. Interesting and quirky — that’s the nature of this endearing catalogue.
Share it with little ones as young as 2. But then again, those older siblings who’ve developed a wry sense of humor — they’ll love it, too. Endpapers show us where the whole assortment actually live.
Viggers has a counting book that’s just as fantastic — 1 to 20, Animals Aplenty — so check that out, too.