The Alphabet's Alphabet

Book review by
Mandie Caroll, Common Sense Media
The Alphabet's Alphabet Book Poster Image
In clever, creative book, alphabet is a family of letters.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Uses wordplay and creative re-imaginings of letters of the alphabet to show ways different letters are similar to other letters. Reinforces capital letter knowledge, a few lowercase letters are included.

Positive Messages

The alphabet is a family of sorts that shares certain attributes -- like straight lines (slanting or vertical) or curved lines -- reminding young readers that we're all connected to everyone else in the things we share in common. We're more alike than we are different. 

Positive Role Models

The narrator (perhaps the letter "U") is curious about how the letters are maybe like a family and creative in imagining how the letters are just other letters in some sort of transformation (an "E" is an "F" on ski, for example). Two humans are included in illustrations, one appears White, the other has medium brown skin.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Alphabet's Alphabet, by Chris Harris (I'm Just No Good at Rhyming) and illustrated by Dan Santat, is a twisted take on the ABCs. Though a typical alphabet book in structure (A to Z), each letter is pulled, pinched, cut, or smooshed into some other letter. A is an H leaned in on itself. O is a C with its mouth closed. V is an M who got a drastic haircut. The narrator explores the alphabet in an attempt to answer the question: If all the letters are unique, but can look like one another with a few tweaks, might they be a sort of family? Book aids young kids in capital letter recognition, as well as offers picture relationships between the letters that may help young learners remember how letters are similar and different. Rhyming text and colorful and lively illustrations are sure to keep little readers engaged. This is a great pick for preschool to early elementary aged kids.

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What's the story?

The narrator in THE ALPHABET'S ALPHABET begins with an opening poem that wonders if the alphabet might be a kind of family. After all, to them, every letter looks like another, in the same way that some people look like their mothers or best friends. A looks like H leaned in on itself in the sweltering heat of a dessert. B looks like D in a pulled-tight belt, C is a G after a shave, and so on. Wordplay, puns (visual and in-text), and jokes add humor to the letter comparisons. The narrator reflects in another poem after the letter Z, and draws a conclusion that will resonate with young and old readers alike. Don't miss the secret message on the left endpage, which can be decoded with the alphabet's alphabet.   

Is it any good?

In this imaginative and funny picture book, there's a something for every type of reader. For preschoolers, The Alphabet's Alphabet offers memorable, creative relationships between the letters and reinforce letter learning. Rhyming text gives this book great read-aloud appeal. Older readers (and adults) will appreciate the witty jokes and clever wordplay. Santat's art is, as always, bright, colorful, and inviting. In particular, the letter's facial expressions are worth a second look. Achieved via spare lines and shapes -- just eyebrows, eyes, and a mouth -- they are full of emotion.

The spirit of uniqueness, similarities, and family carries through the book, a satisfying aspect that sets this alphabet book apart from others. The secret message on one of the endpages is a fun extra for puzzle lovers. Some letter transformations are harder to "figure out" than others (like J is a P trying out backflips, but many readers won't know enough about the mechanics of a backflip to get this quickly), but this is a tiny flaw in an otherwise fantastic book.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about their favorite letter relationships in The Alphabet's Alphabet. Why do you like them? Which letter transformations took longer to "get" or "see" than others? What made them tricky?

  • If the letters of the alphabet are both unique and the same, how does that make them like a family? How are you unique in your family, and how are you like other family members?

  • Who (or what letter) do you think might be narrating the story? What is the narrator curious about? What do they figure out, or what conclusions do they make at the end of the story? Do you agree?

Book details

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