Top 10 Best Alphabet Books

Seems like there’s an alphabet book on nearly every topic these days; some of them are great! Others are obscure or random or superfluous to the opus of children’s literature. But if you are determined enough, you’ll probably find an alphabet book on most topics of interest to a child. Alphabet books are emphatically NOT just useful for preschoolers, they can be clever conduits to information and creativity in a myriad of ways. Of the many, many alphabet books out there, these are Ellie’s opinion of the Top Ten, which had to be so sadly limited. {updated to link Part II of this list!}
 Animalia by Graeme Base is my first immediate choice. The Australian Graeme Base is one of those illustrators that must really adore art since he puts so much time and detail into his lavish pictures; each page is a feast for the eyes and in this particular book, no detail is too small as everything on every page begins with its corresponding letter. Each page offers a bit of a vocabulary lesson as well: “Proud peacocks preening perfect plumage.” This books could easily double as an I-Spy book, it’s as much of a delight for 2 year olds as it is for adults.

 A Farmer’s Alphabet by Mary Azarian. I love woodcuts and you should too. This particular woman does them beautifully. The book details very simple words from farm life and black ink woodcuts to pore over. She’s produced another book: A Gardener’s Alphabet in the same vein that is also fun to peruse… though much more colorful.

B is for Bethlehem by Isabel Wilner is another winner. It deserves a spot in the Top Ten not just for the nice, gentle rhyming… but mostly because of its illustrator– one I’ve highlighted before– Elisa Kleven. Amazon lists this book as discontinued I think, but other internet searches reveal that it is still in print; I was lucky enough to score a beautiful hardback for free on Bookmooch. Bonus points that it is available as a board book too. (Think gifting for children or godchildren.)

The Icky Bug Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta. My boys adored this book. There is so much to learn and love in the insect world and Jerry Pallotta is an excellent choice to bring insects up close for children in a fun, sometimes humorous way. I also wanted to make sure to include this author because he has a whole bunch of other topical alphabet books– everything from birds, flowers, deserts and airplanes.  Especially note his excellent Construction Alphabet Book… a little boy’s dream.

A is for Annabelle by the never disappointing Tasha Tudor. Doll lovers everywhere will swoon over this book and the exquisite and sweet illustrations that glorify the details and delights of dollies.

 Alphabet City by Stephen Johnson. This is a wordless book that cleverly shows urban landscapes highlighting each letter of the alphabet. Not only is the art extremely well done, but the concept itself inspires all sorts of scavenger hunt games in children. This will help them to see the world in a different way, to find letters in everyday things and to want to copycat this idea through photography or drawing from unusual perspectives.

 Museum ABC by The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I might call this one a must-have, especially if you are lacking in art appreciation materials. This is a very clever, useful book that showcases each letter along with four famous paintings that show off the word. In the back is useful information about the paintings and artists in the book… an excellent way to squeeze some “culture” into a child’s life. There is also a Museum 123.

 Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert. This book is being included because it truly is a great preschool book. Bright, chunky fruits and vegetables, in typical Lois Ehlert style, adorn each page. It obviously inspired my 2 year old as she has literally eaten our copy beyond repair.

 The Handmade Alphabet by Laura Rankin. An excellent introduction to the ASL alphabet, this book is so clever and beautiful; each page features a hand demonstrating the sign for the letter along with pictures of what’s represented (The X hand is shown through an X-Ray).
 The Butterfly Alphabet by Kjell Bloch Sandved. Now here is a truly innovative book, one to nourish butterfly lovers everywhere and to demonstrate just how ingenious God is in His natural designs of the universe. Each page shows a full picture photograph of a butterfly and the opposite page is an extreme close-up of the actual letter in the butterfly’s wing. Who knew?! Truly a beauty.

“The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones. “-John Wooden

2 thoughts on “Top 10 Best Alphabet Books

  1. Stacy

    I love this top 10 post. J has been alphabet obsessed for over a year and a half now and will sit in a stroller at a bookstore or library for an hour if you hand him a continual stream of ABC books. We own quite a few ugly barely useful books we've brought home from Goodwill that J refused to leave behind. I'll have to get some of these for him. He received "Eating the Alphabet" for Christmas. We've checked it out from the Library before and J brought it to the grocery store and I thought we would never leave the produce section. He was more than delighted to look at and pick up all the vegetables that appeared on the pages.

  2. Ellie

    Excellent! I'm going to post very soon on a new one I discovered… that really isn't at all aimed at children ironically. Who knew there was a market for Adult ABC books?

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