A Is for Alphabet Books That Teach, Entertain

By Italie, Leanne | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

A Is for Alphabet Books That Teach, Entertain


Italie, Leanne, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Alphabet books aren't just for preschoolers anymore. They've exploded into mini-encylopedias stuffed with real lessons on a broad range of subjects to attract bigger kids, too.

There's still plenty of simple, comforting rhymes by the letter, but some publishers have pepped up the genre by providing extra text to suit readers as old as 12.

It's a two-tiered system perfected by Sleeping Bear Press in Chelsea, Mich. The small imprint of the educational publishing company Gale Cengage has a big-time reputation among parents, teachers and booksellers for regularly churning out nicely illustrated and researched books not easily tossed aside after the ABCs are mastered.

Got a future flying ace? Try Sleeping Bear's "A is for Airplane," where D stands for dirigible and E for Amelia Earhart. Is horticulture more your child's thing? There's "V is for Venus Flytrap" for insights into legumes, tubers and succulents.

If all of that sounds too heavy, other publishers go for fun and frilly among new releases. A look at the latest in A-B-C:

"When Royals Wore Ruffles" (Random House, $16.99, ages 5 to 9) by Chesley McLaren and Pamela Jaber, illustrated by Chesley McLaren.

A breezy yet informative romp through the history of fashion. T is for teetering about town like fine European ladies of the 1500s. They wore decorated chopine platform shoes that sent them soaring up to 30 inches. U is for unmentionables, including 72,000 pairs of nylons sold in New York on the first day they were available in the 1930s.

"Richard Scarry's Find Your ABCs" (Sterling, $9.95, ages 4 to 8)

A reissue of an out-of-print classic stuffed with tongue twisters: "The queen is quaffing a quart of quince juice." Scarry's familiar animals balance slippery spaghetti on a platter and douse the fire on a flaming football as detective pals Sam and Dudley encourage readers to hunt down the ABCs and make something yummy at the end.

"The Sleepy Little Alphabet" (Alfred A. Knopf, $16.99, ages 4 to 8) by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Melissa Sweet.

This charming take on bedtime rituals, with capital letters as parents to their little-case kids, has more traditional one-line text on a page with lively round-eyed illustrations. Small "g has got the googly giggles." All 26 letters are asleep by the end. Perfect for nighttime toddler readalouds. …

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