As summer reading draws to a close (tomorrow!) and school gets ready to gear up again, I’ve been starting some booklists around certain themes and types of books that are heavily requested. I’m hoping to print them up and keep them on the desk for patrons to take. Neil Gaiman’s The Dangerous Alphabet inspired me to start with alphabet books, the best and the worst of what I’ve read for little abecedarians.

The Good
Girls A to Z by Eve Bunting (2002). A great book with a message that girls can do anything. Each letter features a girl whose name starts with that letter taking on an activity that also starts with that letter (Ula is an umpire). A lot of fun, and the simple illustrations reinforce the alphabet and the interesting things the girls are doing.

What Do Animals Do On the Weekend?: Adventures From A to Z by Lauren Falkenberry (2002). Another charming one. Woven around the story of what animals like to do on the weekends, each page features great alliteration for each letter, interesting illustrations of the animals, and facts at the bottom of the page on the animals and their activities.

A Gull’s Story by Frank Finale (2002). The alphabet lesson is fun in this wraparound story about a family of gulls living on the Jersey Shore. As the parent gulls spend the day flying around, they teach the little gull about their history, shore history, and the things they see using the alphabet. Words starting with the letter are in bold face. Very neat.

What Pete Ate From A to Z by Maira Kalman (2001). This is a very funny story about a dog who eats everything. Every page focuses on a letter of the alphabet with some great alliteration about what Pete ate. Kids will like the silliness.

AlphaOops!: The Day Z Went First by Alethea Kontis (2006). This is a very funny and charming book with big, bright illustrations. Z gets fed up with always being last, so he decides that today they will switch up the order of the alphabet. Things get really out of hand when all the letters decide to go in a different place in the alphabet. Kids will like this silly story.

Into the A, B, Sea: An Ocean Alphabet Book by Deborah Lee Rose (2000). This is a great story of sea life, with lots of interesting creatures for each letter of the alphabet and great paper collage illustrations.

Dr. Seuss’s ABC by Dr. Seuss (1963). This is classis Seuss, a great easy reader featuring a silly verse and equally silly illustration for every letter of the alphabet.

Picture a Letter by Brad Sneed (2002). This is a very clever wordless alphabet book, I like this one a lot. Black and white background drawings provide great contrast for the letters, drawn in color. Each letter is incorporated into a picture, and the pictures represent a word that starts with that letter. So for example, an acrobat spells an “A”, a burglar wears a mask that looks like a “B.”

The Alphabet from Z to A (With Much Confusion on the Way) by Judith Viorst (1994). A clever rhyming book highlighting all the exceptions to every rule of spelling in the English language (why doesn’t “excellent” start with an “x”?). Starting with Z and working backwards, every illustration features lots of individual things that start with each letter. Great for teaching kids about unusual word spellings.

The Not-So-Good
The Hullabaloo ABC by Beverly Clearly (1960). This book is a classic, but it feels really dated. I’m not sure if kids will know what “jabber” is these days. But it’s a neat farm adventure, and the word choices are interesting.

Afro-Bets ABC Book by Cheryl Willis Hudson (1987). A simple alphabet book with no additional text or story. The letters feature typical words starting with each letter, but also some Afro-themed words sprinkled throughout (like cornrows and Kente cloth). It’s an interesting multicultural book, but it feels very out of date and doesn’t really add anything to the genre.

The Jazzy Alphabet by Sherry Shahan (2002). This book could be difficult for younger kids learning the alphabet. The pictures are very vivid and the jazz tone is fun, but it’s not the most practical book. The hidden items starting with each letter are difficult to see, and the text is silly but doesn’t make tons of sense with the alphabet theme.

Tomorrow’s Alphabet by George Shannon (1996). Unusual approach to the alphabet and to showing kids how things turn into other things. For example, “B is for eggs-tomorrow’s BIRDS.” I think it could be confusing for little ones actually learning the alphabet.

Alphabet Adventure by Audrey Wood (2001). This is a strange book, part of a series, about all the little letters of the alphabet going on an adventure to school. Little I’s dot falls in the lake and the adventure begins. Not really an alphabet book, just a story about letters. Kids might find it amusing, but I thought some of the illustrations were disconnected from the actual story.