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The Graphic Alphabet (Caldecott Honor Book) Hardcover – September 1, 1996

4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Most alphabet books for pre-readers and early readers set out to make the somewhat abstract idea of letters as clear and as clearly linked to words as possible. In The Graphic Alphabet, graphic designer David Pelletier has created an alphabet book that aims to explore letters for their beauty and complexity as design elements as well as help teach kids how to read. His "A," for example, stands for "avalanche," and with its normally pointed top tumbling down the right diagonal, the letter doesn't just stand for the avalanche, it becomes the word. Pelletier is equally ingenious throughout. And while this might not be the best book to make the concept of letters concrete for youngsters, it will certainly help instill in them a sense of wonder about letters and words.

From Publishers Weekly

This arresting alphabet book is far removed from the "A is for Apple" school of abecedaries. Here, A is for Avalanche, and the churning snow in the accompanying illustration crumbles from the summit of an A-shaped mountain. B is for Bounce, and the arcing path of a blue ball loops to form the outer curves of that letter. Each of the 26 letters is thus ingeniously featured in an illustration that represents the word in question. Glossy and elegant, Pelletier's debut work is striking for the clean lines of its images and the overarching simplicity of its composition. Each letter is showcased against a sleek black background, vivid colors against a square of darkness. There is humor here, too: set sideways, the letter D glows as a horned red devil; in a ghoulish X ray two bony fingers overlap to form an X. Even so, this book is too sophisticated for kids just learning their ABC's; it may best suit older children with an interest in art and adults with an interest in graphic design. All ages.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 2
  • Series: Caldecott Honor Book
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Inc.; First Edition edition (September 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0531360016
  • ISBN-13: 978-0531360019
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 10 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #219,936 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on July 2, 1997
Format: Hardcover
I'm torn! Is this a children's book or something I put on my coffee table? It's that good!

Instead of cute pictures in bright colors representing letters, Pelletier takes a graphically unusual look at the alphabet using everything from color and graphic images to different varnishes to get across his message. The colors are bright with a black background that jump off the page.

The unique images are clever and engaging. One of my favorites is the x-ray of a hand with crossing fingers for X.

Have a child; know someone who does; looking for something interesting as an ice breaker? Take a look at this book!
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By A Customer on August 5, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Although I did enjoy the art in this book, wasn't this book originally called "The Z Was Zapped" by the genius author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg? Just by adding color doesn't make this a revolutionary book. My kids love the mystery and anticipation that comes with Mr. Van Allsburg's story, and I love how it challenges and promotes that higher level of thinking and word construction. Thank you, but I'll be sticking with Chris.
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By NSM on February 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is great for stimulating your little one's or older one's minds. Our boys still love the book (they are now 7 and 8) but we introduced it to them in pre-k 3. It makes teaching and learning the alphabet a lot of fun together.
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Format: Hardcover
I got this book at a garage sale, and looking at it I would have thought the same thing as many of the reviewers here who seem to feel that it would be useless for kids trying to learn the alphabet and should be reserved for older children and adults interested in graphic design. One reviewer pointed out, for example, that "His B, standing for Bounce, looks more like a softened M than a B on its side."

With those thoughts in mind, I had put the boook aside for use much later, but my 15-month old son soon found it and fell in love with it. A month later, it's one of his 3 or 4 favorite books, and one of only two alphabet books he is willing to spend any time looking at at all. He is completely enchanted by it and asks for me to read it to him about twice a day. Since we started doing so a few weeks ago, he has started repeating many of the words back to me, and excitedly draws many of the letters in the air with his finger or hand while looking at it.

While it's true that the forms of some of the letters aren't made glaringly obvious by their graphic designs (e.g. the B), the word associated with each letter (in that case "Bounce") is printed in a clear serif font on each page, so I simply utilize them as well when reading the book to my son. So for B, for example, I'll point to letter at the beginning of the word, then the word, and say "B is for Bounce." Then I repeat "Bounce. B. Boing! Boing!" as I repeatedly outline the graphic representation of it. He loves it and he's learning fast. For example, because of this book he makes the letter "J" in the air when he wants me to show him someone juggling (or to attempt to do it myself).

This experience is just one of many that proves to me that we too often underestimate children. Kids are smarter than we think, and are often interested in much more sophisticated things than we expect.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Love this book!! Very nice hardcover copy. I use it in my art room and it has been a springboard for SO MANY very creative art projects. Amazing how ideas blossom and spread with a single example and a group of excited children!
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Format: Hardcover
This is an alphabet book for children in which each letter is coupled with a word that is graphicly illustrated by the letter. For example, the letter A is accompanied by the word avalanche and one leg of the letter is collapsing as in an avalanch. The book was a 1997 Caldecott Honor book (i.e., a runner-up to the Medal winner) for best illustrations in a book for children. Children will enjoy identifying the letter with the "concept" representing it.
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Format: Hardcover
I wondered how could an alphabet book win a Caldecott Honor. I examined this book with my class of 10 year olds. They loved it and it inspired them to write their own. This book isn't just for little ones learning their alphabet!
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Format: Hardcover
In an epilogue to his 1997 Caldecott Honor Book The Graphic Alphabet, David Pelletier explains his aim: "the illustration of the letterform had to retain the natural shape of the letter as well as represent the meaning of the word." The letter does not simply stand for the word, it becomes the word. So, a "D" represents the devil, by resting on its round side with serifs accentuated into horns; three "O"'s hang from strings as ornaments; "X" is represented in an x-ray image of crossed finger-bones. Each of the letters receives one page, on which the letter appears within a black box, with the word it represents printed below. The bright colors against the black background give the illustrations an intense and dramatic mood, with a sharp quality; the glossy paper plays up the clean lines of the work. Some of the illustrations are obscure and the letters so altered and distorted as to be unrecognizable; sometimes the illustrations seem a bit like an exercise for a graphic design class and not an instructional tool. This book is certainly not appropriate for making the concept of letters concrete for young children, though children who are newly able to recognize letterforms may appreciate extending their knowledge with this book.
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