April 25, 2017

Alphabet School by Stephen T. Johnson

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:10 pm by suebe2

Alphabet School
by Stephen T. Johnson
Paula Wiseman/Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

No two people look at a book, or the world, in quite the same way.  That said, it isn’t surprising that Stephen T. Johnson’s work was brought to my attention by an illustrator because this book, like several others he has created, is wordless.

That’s right.  It is an alphabet book without words.

Where many alphabet book rely first on text, Johnson’s Alphabet School is all about the graphic element.  In fact, it was inspired by an image.  One day his daughter brought home her lunch sack complete with partially eaten lunch.  Inside was a PBJ that now looked exactly like the letter G which inspired the whole book.

Flip through the pages and you find every letter of the alphabet from A to Z rendered as photographs of various things found in and around your typical school.  The cover shows a ladder forming the letter A.  B is the shadow on a bus.  Sometimes the letter is formed by or on something that begins with that letter, such as the flags on a flagpole that create the F, but more often than not the letter is strictly visual.  Look at the photograph and you will find it.

It makes the whole experience a lot more like a hidden picture book than your typical alphabet book.  Be ready to have your young reader (graphic art appreciator?) combing their classroom, school, library and home for representations of various letters.  You could even create a scavenger hunt out of the experience.

The images are digitized prints that have a print photographic feel because of the grainy quality of the images themselves. It helps give the book a dreamy, surreal quality as does the fact that this is a school without students, teachers are staff.

Use this book as a jumping off point for working with the alphabet, creating a graphic alphabet with your class or discussing schools and the things in them.  Encourage your young artists to be as creative in their vision as Johnson was when we started seeking out the letters needed to complete the alphabet his daughter started.

–SueBE

August 27, 2015

Alphabet Trains by Samantha R. Vamos, illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:06 am by suebe2

Alphabet Trains
by Samantha R. Vamos
illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke
Charlesbridge

Do you have an train crazy kid in your life?  If you do, you need to pick up a copy of Alphabet Trains.  

Tear the ticket.
Load the freight.
Sound the whistle.
Raise the gate.

The opening sets the tone for this fun, fast-moving alphabet book.  Vamos takes readers on a trip around the world, introducing them to trains throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia and Australia.

The book is written in rhyme which helps make it a fun read aloud.  Readers work their way through the alphabet as they learn about auto trains, Zephyrs and more.  I especially appreciated the fact that she didn’t cheat on X.  To find out what train she found that begins with this letter, you’ll have to read the book.

O’Rourke’s illustrations add to the fun with their light cartoony style.  He works the appropriate letters, both upper and lower case, into the illustrations.  At the very least, the letters are on the trains but they can also often be found throughout the artwork itself in the form of Y-shaped trees and track supports shaped like E’s or M’s where appropriate.

The backmatter for this book includes details on the trains themselves including where each can be found.  This could easily be turned into a geography game as you challenge your reader to puzzle out (cold, cold, warmer!) where each country is on a world map.

Share this book with your young train lover and you’ll find yourself reading through it for the fun of the rhyme but then paging back through the illustrations as your pre-reader or new-reader looks for the letters found within.  That said, the book isn’t so rowdy that you couldn’t use it to settle a child down for nap or bed-time.

A fun addition to the bookshelf of your train-loving child.

–SueBE

 

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