in which i share two excessively entertaining alphabet books

#54 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet

Few things are more delightful than discovering good alphabet books, and by “good,” I mean those that have original hooks, are a little quirky, do justice to the tricky letters ‘q’ ‘x’, and ‘z’, and compel me to take a second and third look. Because there are so many alphabet books out there already, creators have to be extra clever and innovative. Here’s one that celebrates pasta under the big top, and another that’s alphabetically effusive in ways too numerous to count.

Juana Medina admits she ate a lot of pasta while making ABC Pasta: An Entertaining Alphabet (Viking, 2017). What could be better than an alphabet good enough to eat?! Love the circus theme and meeting all 26 of the perky performers, who gambol, juggle, race, pirouette, and cavort through the pages with the greatest of ease.

Medina created them using real photographs of pasta-related foods incorporated into zesty digital drawings, and they are introduced with temptingly toothsome alliterative phrases, fun-to-read tongue twisters that are quite a mouthful.

It’s such fun to see the ingenious ways Juana uses the different types of pasta. Curly campanelle become clown hats, twisty integrale become invincible Ingrid’s wavy hair, versatile orzo figure in several orchestral instruments, and yolk-less pasta turns into yodelers’ beards.

Young readers will have a ball following the performers’ antics and learning about the different types of pasta (some of which were new to me). While most know spaghetti, angel hair, rigatoni, tortellini, macaroni, linguine, and ziti, fewer may be familiar with all’uovo, quadrucci, integrale, gemelli, and ditalini. For flavor and variety, look for “basil balancing ballerinas,” “herb hoops,” and “Pecorino and Parmigiano, plate spinners.”

With its cast of daredevils, acrobats, trapeze artists, magicians, gymnasts, and fire eaters, ABC Pasta is a joyous, satisfying meal that will have munchkins begging for seconds. Upper and lower case letters appear on each page and the adorable endpapers feature mini drawings of all the performers. What a cool way to learn the alphabet and new words, with fun-to-pronounce tasty Italian on the side. Reading this book is bound to make you hungry — don’t worry, Juana has you covered with a recipe for Cacio e Pepe in the back. Mangia, Mangia!Β  πŸ™‚


Here’s a rhetorical question: is it ever possible to have too many letters? What if you were buried beneath an avalanche of A’s, stampeded by herds of H’s, inundated with swarms of S’s?

Well, if you read An Excessive Alphabet: Avalanches of As to Zillions of Zs by Judi Barrett and Ron Barrett (Atheneum, 2016), you will have so much fun you will probably ask for more more more of our 26 feisty friends!

From the team who created Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, here’s an interactive alphabet book that features letter identification, vocabulary building, and seek-and-find game all in one.

If you’re a fan of collective nouns, this book is definitely for you. On each page there’s an outlandish illustration Γ  la Ron Barrett featuring scads of upper and lower case letters + objects beginning with that letter, described by an alliterative phrase.

For Avalanches of A’s, cracked letters tumble down a hillside along with an airplane, artichoke, green ant, angel, and acorn. For Islands of I’s, an iguana, infant, igloo, ice skate and iron float on individual I’s, and Whopping amounts of W’s get a lift with a wreath, walrus, witch, whistle, wheelchair, and worm.

There’s a lot going on in these lively, amusing pictures, which are chock full of interesting details to keep kids busy for hours trying to identify all the objects. A final illustration showing a jumble of various and sundry invites the reader to “See how many of these things you can find in the pages of this book,” while endpapers feature an alphabetical list of all the objects/words included in the book.

There’s just enough quirk to keep me smiling: a gingerbread man’s feet stuck in a glob of G, a flying foot among a flock of F’s, a camel, couch, cat, crab, cupcake and cookie spilling out of cans tumbling from a closet.

As a big fan of typography, I especially love seeing letters of the alphabet take physical form and acquire distinct personalities. They go beyond mere letters and become characters in a scene. And did I mention that for Oodles of O’s, there are bowls of pea and tomato soup with o-shaped pasta floating in them? I’ve always wanted an octopus, an Oscar, and an ostrich splashing around in my bowl. πŸ™‚

So nice to get a good alphabet fix with these two new books. After all, no day is complete without generous servings of entertaining pasta and excessive quantities of cheeky, mischievous letters. Dare I say it? Letter perfect! πŸ™‚




ABC PASTA: An Entertaining Alphabet
written and illustrated by Juana Medina
published by Viking/Penguin YR Group, February 2017
Picture Book for ages Pre-K+, 40 pp.
**starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal**



AN EXCESSIVE ALPHABET: Avalanches of As to Zillions of Zs
written by Judi Barrett
illustrated by Ron Barrett
published by Atheneum BFYR, October 2016
Picture Book for ages 4-8, 40 pp.


❀️ More alphabetica here.

Certified authentic alphabetica. Made by hand just for you with love and an excessively entertaining platter of pasta and pizzazz.

Copyright Β© 2017 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.




15 thoughts on “in which i share two excessively entertaining alphabet books

  1. I just saw the Juana’s pasta ABC book at the VA Festival of the Book this past weekend–very cute! She was on a panel called Drawing & Writing Libros along with Meg Medina, Angela Dominguez & Lulu Delacre (who also has an alphabet book, Olinguito). I really enjoyed it. And love the idea of the excessive one too. Thanks for sharing, Jama ;)!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So, so clever are these writers and artists. I love the “orzo orchestra” and it’s hard to choose among the “avalanche” of letters, but those “globs” are very cute. Thanks, Jama!


  3. I’m a big fan of alphabetarianism. A fellow writer pointed me towards this post after reading my ABC book, A Rather Round Alphabet. I’d say the biggest problem when working on it was not making every entry a food product. There is a lot of great round food out there! Thanks for posting about these two books. I’ve subscribed to your blog so I don’t miss any more alphabetarianistical posts!


  4. Excited to hear you’ve written an ABC book about round things. Yes, LOTS of good round food. Thanks to you, I’m now craving donuts, cookies, lollipops, cakes, and pies. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  5. OH! I love these! Especially that pasta one. I read somewhere recently that alphabet books aren’t really selling any more so I’m excited to see some great concepts made it through the blockade. πŸ˜‰


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