Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Children’s Book Review, Once Upon an Alphabet

Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson,

Once Upon an Alphabet is a children’s picture book, written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, and published by Harper Collins (2014). RRP: $Au29.99 (hardcover). Also available as an e-book.

From the publisher:

From Edmund the astronaut with his awkward fear of heights, via the dynamic new investigative duo of the Owl and the Octopus, through to the Zeppelin that just might get Edmund a little bit closer to where he needs to be, this book is packed with funny, thrilling, perilous and above all entertaining tales inspired by every letter in the alphabet.An adventure to follow from A to Z, or a treasure trove to dip in and out of, Once Upon an Alphabet is a work of exhilarating originality from artist Oliver Jeffers, the creator of much-loved modern classics such as Lost and Found and The Incredible Book Eating Boy.

When this rather large children’s picture book arrived chez Chook, I thought I would just take a peek as I didn’t immediately have time to read it all. Not possible - it just wasn’t that kind of book! I kept reading, entranced and amused by Once Upon an Alphabet’s creativity and wit. It seems as if Jeffers might have set himself the prompt of responding to each letter of the alphabet both in text and visually, but that definitely never gets old. Sometimes we explore alliteration, on another page we remember something that happened earlier in the book, here we giggle, there we guffaw.

Part alphabet book, part collection of ultra short stories, Once Upon an Alphabet is also an invitation for children to play with letters, words and images. It would make an excellent book to use a mentor text with kids - I can see teachers sharing one letter a day as students explore what Jeffers has done, then create their own responses. There’s a real emphasis on imagination and thinking outside the box that I know will encourage young creators.

Apart from the creativity and humour, I absolutely loved the watercolour artwork, the detailed line drawings, the minimalist and intriguing graphic design. Jeffers is one of those amazing artists who suggests a range of emotions with a couple of lines. (You can click through some of the illustrations at Jeffers' own site, and also show your kids Oliver Jeffers World.)

This is the sort of book you see kids poring over at home and in school libraries, so do grab it for the young people in your life.

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