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

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