I’m often struggling to come up with themes for storytime each week (and would love suggestions…hint, hint…), so this week I just decided to be lazy and copy the themes from my daughter’s preschool class. This week she was learning about the alphabet, and therefore, so was I.
Luckily, there are some fun, and funny alphabet picture books out there, many of them new. All of the books I read this week were snatched up immediately and checked out at the end, always a good sign!
The first one I read was recommended by my friend Kerri, on her wonderful blog: What is ML Reading? Kerri is a children’s librarian in North Carolina, who chronicles the books that she reads with her own daughter. And that’s where I learned about:
123 versus ABC by Mike Boldt
Number 1 is pleased to introduce this book about numbers until Letter A shows up arguing that it’s really an alphabet story. The argument is complicated by the arrival of 1 Alligator, 2 Bears in 3 Cars…you get the picture. The illustrations are hilarious (the kids all loved the picture of the geese eating hot dogs and ice cream), and there’s a funny twist at the end that calls both their arguments into question.
Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky
This is probably my favorite alphabet book. It starts out very simply, and it’s fun to have the kids chime in on the opening letters: A is for Apple, B is for Ball, C is for Cat. But then the eager Moose butts in, begging to be featured, and interrupting all the other letters. When Zebra (who is running the show) decides to go with Mouse for M instead, Moose throws an enormous tantrum and starts putting his name (and drawing antlers) on everything. Hilarious!
I Stink by Kate and Jim McMullan
This is terrific read-aloud that works great as both an alphabet book, and a book for kids who love big trucks. This truck is big and tough and eats your trash for breakfast. Burp!! The alphabet part comes in when we find out all the things the truck eats, a list that includes Dirty Diapers, Puppy Poo, and Ugly Underpants. Oh, how the kids loved that part! Ewwww City!
Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel
This was my son’s favorite book when he was three, and he has loved every Bad Kitty book since (Bruel now has a series of Bad Kitty chapter books that are hilarious. They are wonderful for second and third graders to read on their own, but with enough illustrations to read aloud to preschoolers. I read them with my daughter when she was three, and she begged to hear them over and over again).
This first Bad Kitty book opens with the line, “She wasn’t always a bad kitty,” and goes on to tell about the terrible day when Kitty’s owners ran out of cat food and tried to feed her vegetables. There are four alphabetical lists: first the foods that Kitty hates (Asparagus, Beets, Cauliflower, etc.); then all the things she does when she turns bad (Ate my homework, Bit Grandma, Clawed the Curtains…); followed by the foods that make Kitty happy (An Assortment of Anchovies, Buffalo Burritos…); and finally, all the things that Kitty does when she turns good again (Apologized to Grandma, Bought me new toys, Cleaned her Cat Box, Drove me to School…). It’s a bit long, but the kids hung in there, mostly because the illustrations and ideas are so funny (my favorite is the cat washing the car with her tongue). This one got snatched up immediately, and other kids were sad I didn’t have extra copies.
Big A, Little a, (spread hands wide apart, then bring them close together)
Bouncing B (bounce up and down)
The cat’s in the cupboard
And he can’t see me (cover your eyes with your hands)
We also sang Old MacDonald, and I challenged the kids to name animals starting with different letters of the alphabet: Alligator, Bee, Cat, etc.
INSTRUMENT PLAY WITH A CD: Man Gave Names to All the Animals by Tim O’Brien, from Sing Along with Putumayo. I’m sure there’s probably a fun alphabet song I could have done, but I didn’t have time to look for one. Any suggestions?
CRAFT: Alphabet Soup
I printed the letters from Crayon Action Coloring Pages (I’m always grateful for sites with free coloring pages!), then traced out red and yellow circles out of paper, and improvised a paper spoon. The kids glued it all together, using whatever letters they liked. To be honest, it was crazy at the reference desk before storytime, so I didn’t have time to trim the letters as much as I liked. It would have been nice to have plastic spoons to stick on too, and alphabet shaped pasta would have been even more fun.
One I meant to do was the classic Chicka, Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault and Lois Ehlert. In fact, my daughter did an adorable craft in preschool last week, where the teacher wrote the letters of each child’s name on coconuts, and the kids got to paste them on the tree. Several friends of mine also listed this as their favorite alphabet book, including children’s librarian Barbara Amberg, and Tina Williams, who remembers reading it to her daughter all the time.
Max’s ABC by Rosemary Wells
Cute story that works well as a read-aloud for toddlers and preschoolers, even if you don’t mention the alphabet. Max’s Ants escape from the ant farm and Bite Bite Bite, until Max’s sister Ruby finds away to get rid of them. All of the events of the story are in alphabetical order, but Wells manages to make this work without seeming forced. Max and Ruby are always a big hit.
Crictor by Tomi Ungerer
Recommended by Kim Day, a children’s librarian in Burlingame, California. Wonderful book for your reptile lover, about a fabulously long snake who comes in handy when two burglars come to call. The alphabet part comes in when Crictor demonstrates the shapes of different letters.
Dr. Seuss’ ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book by Dr. Seuss
The favorite of my friend Neely Dean’s daughter. How can you go wrong with Dr. Seuss? Funny illustrations, wacky ideas (a Camel on the Ceiling), and a catchy rhyme. Plus it shows both the capital and lower case letters, as well as giving multiple sounds for the same letter.
26 Letters and 99 Cents by Tana Hoban
Recommended by Michael Lambert, Deputy Director of Library Services for San Mateo County. This is an alphabet and counting book in one, with bright, colorful photographs of both capital and lower case letters next to an object that begins with that letter. I’ve noticed that a lot of alphabet books try to draw the letters in clever or artistic ways that are fun, but aren’t necessarily the best way to introduce them. This one is both appealing to kids, and very clear. The counting side of the book shows how to represent the numbers from 1 to 99 using different groups of coins: perfect for teaching addition or money values.
The Sleepy Little Alphabet by Judy Sierra; illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Recommended by Ashley Waring, a children’s librarian in Reading, Massachusetts. I had never seen this one before, but it is oh so cute! It’s bedtime for the lower case letters, but of course none of them want to go to sleep. “Uh oh! a is wide awake. And b still has a bath to take.” The illustrations are goofy and fun.
LMNO Peas by Keith Baker
This one was recommended by both Ashley Waring and Kim W., who directs a preschool in Alabama, so I will have to add it to my repertoire! Adorable alphabet peas demonstrate their amazing skills for every letter: “We’re acrobats, artists, and astronauts in space. We’re builders, bathers, and bikers in a race.” Definitely a more exciting take on the usual “A is for Apple” style books.
Alphabet Mystery by Audrey Wood and Bruce Wood
Another favorite of Kim W., and by one of my all-time favorite authors, so I’ll definitely be getting this one too. Every night at bedtime, Charley’s alphabet says their names, just for fun. But one night, little x is missing. The letters must fly on a pencil to look for their friend, and find him in the castle of Master M. To their surprise, they find he is happier there because Charley never used him. But one of the letters knows a secret to bring him home.
ABCDrive! A Car Trip Alphabet by Naomi Howland
Wonderful recommendation by Barbara Bruxvoort, a children’s librarian in San Bruno, California. This one works great for car fans and Bay Area locals. Each letter represents something a child might see while out on a drive: an Ambulance, a Bus, a Cement Mixer. Set in San Francisco, it might make for a fun game to take out on the road and see how many of the objects you can find in real life.
The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Gris Grimly
Recommended by Veronica Meade-Kelley, a science writer who described it as “How I Taught My Kids to Never Leave Home without a Grown Up.” Two children and their pet gazelle run away on an adventure in the sewers in search of treasure. Not for young children, unless they have a high tolerance for creepiness, but great for fans of darker fiction like Roald Dahl or Edward Gorey: E’s for the Evil that lures and Entices, F is for Fear and its many devices.
What are your favorite alphabet books?