A is for Alphabet: Three vintage ABC books

“Books are full of stories. Stories are made of words, and words are made of letters.

If you want to read a story you first have to know the letters of the alphabet.

Let me show you.”

~H.A. Rey, Curious George Learns the Alphabet (1963)

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I love ABC books. They illustrate the simple perfection of a letter, joined to another letter, to make a word, to make a story.

My favourite ABC books are those that bring the alphabet to life in new ways — and show the unique and sometimes quirky character of each letter.

The three I’ve chosen —  by beloved authors H.A. Rey, Dr. Seuss and P.L. Travers — stand out for me because of their artwork and creativity. Coincidently, all three books were published in the early 1960s showing that (yet again) a truly good book stands the test of time.

1. Curious George: Learns the Alphabet by H.A. Rey (1963):

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If you love the world’s most curious little monkey, you will love this book. Author/illustrator H.A. Rey doesn’t just show – but teaches — how  to turn each letter into a colourful picture.

A is an alligator (with his mouth wide open):

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Small “l” is a lean lady licking a lollipop:

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“X” is for Xmas? Sheesh…perhaps Rey didn’t know how to draw a xylophone.

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2. Dr. Seuss’s ABC (1963):

If I were letter, I’d be honoured to be featured in the famous rhymes and fantastical world of Dr. Seuss.

This man’s imagination knows no bounds, and he’s given the Alphabet real pizzazz in this book. Who else would make up crazy, colourful creatures and words combined with fanciful rhymes to teach children the alphabet?

“F” is for four feathers on a Fiffer-feffer-feff:

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And here is how he handles the difficult “X”:

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My favourite is “Z”: Can you say “Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz”?

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3. Mary Poppins from A to Z by P.L. Travers (1962):

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Oh so lovely, Mary Poppins from A to Z was published almost 30 years after her famous story Mary Poppins. Here, Mary Shepard gives us 26 beautiful vignettes–one letter for each of the alphabet–that further the story of the beloved Mary Poppins, the Banks family and their community. It’s like sneaking a peak into the private world of number 17 Cherry Tree lane. My only one disappointment is that “S” does not stand for “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. If you can forgive that oversight, you will enjoy this collection:

“D” is for dinner, which can be Delicious and Distressing:

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“N” is for nursery, which is Nice and quiet tonight:

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And last but not least, “X” is for a kiss…an eXtremely nice thing:

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“All that is or was or will be lies between A and Z.”

~Mary Poppins from A to Z

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For some classic alphabet songs and videos, check out my twitter feed @lostfoundbooks

9 comments

  1. Lovely! What a wonderful trip down memory lane! I have the Curious George and the Dr. Seuss- the Mary Poppins is brand new to me. Books that are clever, beautiful and help children learn. What can be better? Great post!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing!!! This is wonderful. And I agree, Dr. Suess is a man of ceaseless wisedom. Mary Poppins is a favorite from my youth and therefore forever in my heart. I never saw this ABC before and it is on my list now for books to hunt for my own library. Looking forward to your new post! Hugs from Ohio.

  3. Oh, thank you for this absorbing journey through these wonderful books! Such a treat! I love them all – but especially the Mary Poppins one. Mary Shepard’s illustrations are beautiful – pictures to lose yourself in; so much detail and food for the imagination!

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