Sunday, 31 March 2013

Unusual Alphabet books - including tactile alphabets, dinosaur ABC's and more

These books are all suitable for young children with the possible exception of two under Monster's ABCs. If you want a very scary one for mature audiences you will find one on my other blog : .

I have no idea why so few of these have ever been printed. Most children learn so much better when through many senses. These combine sight, touch and hearing.

Sparkle Books Learn Your ABC
This book consists of 9 pages printed on a heavy 9" x 6" card. Each page has 3 letters, except the last which has two. There is a large capitol for each letter cut out of the card to reveal a shining sparkling letter. There is also a set of smaller letters in capitol and lower case, a word beginning with that letter and a simple drawing to match. There is no text at all other than the single words and the letter pairs. This does have it's own usefulness though as children can easily learn the words for each of these common objects by looking at this book often. All in all this is a very basic ABC book, and the main point of interest would be the sparkling letters, which I have found even very young children seem to enjoy.

There is however one other aspect about this book that makes it worth adding to your child's bookshelf. The cut out letters are ideal for tracing with little fingers, something my own children enjoy doing with this book. This allows the child to learn the letters with three senses, visual, auditory and tactile, as opposed to most ABC books which only use two. While this will be of special benefit to tactile/ kinesthetic learners, I do believe this is helpful for all small children. 

* Also reviewed on dooyoo

Usborne Touchy Feely abc
This is a very traditional alphabet book - a is for apple, be is for b and c is for car.  They are very bright and colourful, and reasonably well drawn, but perhaps best suited to younger children - ages 1 -3. Not every picture has a texture, but most pages do have at least one textured pictured. I rather think it is cheating to use a cut out section with smooth card as a texture through when the entire book is made of smooth card. In addition to the card texture, they have a number of cloth textures. These are not the greatest, but they are OK, and enough to get him to read the book now and then. They most certainly do not compare with the textures in Fiona Watt's That's Not My.... series.

This book  uses lower cases letters only, and would be very useful for those following a Montessori programme, or  otherwise trying to use only lower case letters. The letters themselves were a bit of a dissapointment though. They are all textured, but only with a stamp creating ridges into the paper. There are none that have a cut out insert, and the texture is slightly less noticeable than the stickers I have used for a similar purpose on other books.  For tactile purposes as this is not quite as good as Learn Your ABC (Sparkle Books) - which wasn't even intended to be a tactile book.

In short this book is neither very good nor very bad, it is simply mediocre. I think it would be a very good baby or toddler book, but it still has some use for any child who is learning their alphabet. I do have a lot of complaints with this book, but at the same time,  there are so very few tactile ABC books printed, it is still worth considering.

My dooyoo review:

Montessori Letter Work by Bobby and June George
Lower case letters only - as one would expect from a  Montessori book. these letters are not in alphabetical order - which I feel is a good thing - it means children are learning the letters by sight, not order. Simple traditional ABC book type illustrations. The main reason to buy this book is the large textured letters with arrows showing the correct  way to form the letters. I would note though these are not sandpaper letters. The texture is simply a painted on material and not the most noticeable. Also Montessori purists will be horrified at the suggestion to pronounce each letter with an extended vowel sound such as "duh" for d. We simply skip this part and say the sounds the proper way.

Animal ABC Books

 A is for Animals by David Pelham
26 flaps with a large clear upper and lower case letter. These open up to reveal stunning pop up animal illustrations. Highly recommended.

Animal ABCs (San Diego Zoo Series)
A very fun small fold out book with lovely colour photos. Upper case letters only.

Animalia by Graeme Base
Beautiful hidden pictures animal alphabet. Upper case only.

Dinosaur ABC Books

An Alphabet of Dinosaurs - Peter Dodson
Beautifully illustrated with vivid, colourful paintings showing a great deal of artistic talent. In addition to a full page painting for each letter there is also a very detailed black and white drawing of the animals skeleton. Next to the skeleton is a simple figure of a man to give an idea of the size of this animal.

Each letter also has a long paragraph describing the animal. This is written on a fairly high reading and interest level. For instance, one sentence reads "Erlikosaurus belonged to a group of dinosaurs called the segnosaurs". This is a well written scientific book which is certain to please young paleontology fans, but may not be of as much interest to the average nursery age child - of course you can always subsitute with a simpler more age appropriate description.

 This does not display the letters on their own. The only place a child will really see the letter is at the start of each dinosaurs name. This is written in an artistic and highly stylized manner, which looks lovely, but really is not the best for children just learning to read. I drew large letters into the book myself. Then having seen how helpful stickers were in an alphabet book, I also places foil alphabet stickers for each letter on the page with the text

The Dinosaur Alphabet Book - Jerry Pallotta
Lovely book with clear upper and lower case letters, nice paintings and plenty of facts for each dinosaur.

Dinosaurs Write With Me Alphabet
This is really lovely book, printed on an exceptionally thick card. It features one dinosaur for each letter, with a well drawn illustration and a few brief facts presented in a rhyming text. At the bottom of each page are two lines with the upper case letter shown in black, grey, dotted lines, and finally a blank section so children can read the letters, trace over them with the special pen and then practice their own. The books zips up into into a built in case with room for a pen and small cloth so you can take this out and about as well. Also included with the book is a pen, stickers and a cd rom. Upper and lower case letters are featured, but writing practice is upper case letters only.

Alphasaurs and Other Prehistoresic Types by  Sharon Werner and Sarah Nelson
Alphasaurs has a very unique style of illustration. Each dinosaur or prehistoric reptile is made up only of the first letter of that creatures name. So Allosaurus is drawn only using only the letter A in upper and lower cases and of different sizes. This seems like an impossible task, but the artists has really created beautiful black and white pictures using only letters. In addition to the dinosaur being made of letters, there are facts on each animal as well. These facts are told in a highly alliterative verse, using the featured letter over and over. The letter is also drawn into the smaller illustrations with the facts, so the book tells us Allosaurus were both angry and aggressive, with capital A's drawn into angry faces. Fruitadens lived in a forest and the forest is drawn with the letter f for the the trunks of each tree, and the letter P forms the branches of pine for the Parasaurolophus.


The Absolutely Awful Alphabet Book  - Mordecai Gerstein
Titally nonsensical beasts in the shape of upper case letters witha short description amde up of words beginning with that letter.

Z is for Zombie Merrily Kutner:

My boys love this book but it may frighten some children. Each page has a picture of a monster or some other creepy item, followed by a short rhyme such as " Bogeyman: Darkness masks the Bogeyman, till you're sleeping that's his plan". The illustrations are usually in darkened shades, some showing the subject very clearly, such as a sink full of bloody eyeballs, the cyclops eating a man, or a queen with her head in her hands, while others only give you a hint of things to come - a clawed hand reaching in the door for the bogeyman, or a set of eyes staring in a bedroom window for the end of this book accompanied by this warning "Beware the night and what it brings, for out their lurk such scary things".

It has the name of each spooky item, but this is in a highly stylised block text, which I would find difficult to read if I did not already know the spellings for each word. Lower case "U" is the worst. It is presented as a black square shape with a white diamond in the middle, but all of the letters in the name of each subject are splattered looking, as if made by dipping a shape in ink, and slopping tons of extra ink over the letter. It actually doesn't look bad. There is a certain artistic quality to it, but it hardly suits a child who is just learning to read.

To make up for this shortcoming I placed large foil alphabet letters to the side of each poem. This worked out perfectly as the letters are very visible, but can also be traced with a finger allowing a child to learn the alphabet through touch as well. Of course you could simply write the letters in with marker, but having used the stickers, I would highly recommend this - and if possible - a textured sticker would work even better.

Full review on Dooyoo

Y is for Yowl - parental discretion also advised. Some parents have objected to a knife thrower illustration. Of course knife is a terrible word to illustrate the k sound with regardless of  your opinion on scary books. Illustrated with phots, but some are rather poor. My children did not find this frightening at all. It does have upper and lower case letters.
Full review @ dooyoo
Full review on Dooyoo


Curious George Learns the Alphabet by H.A. Rey
One of the very best alphabet books ever. Each letter is cleverly made into a picture - so the upper case A becomes an alligators mouth, the lower case a becomes an apple. This also includes a story of how George learned to write - and gets into a bit of mischief as well.

Dr Seuss ABC
This book isn't just a classic, when comes to ABC books, it is THE classic. It has 63 pages and uses capitol and lower case letters. The illustrations are what you would expect from Dr Seuss, cartoon type characters, often of totally nonsensical creatures such as the zizzer zazzer zuzz. They are warm and brightly coloured and I could still remember every page and picture from my own childhood before buying this for my children.

The text is not always rhyming, as one usually finds with Dr Seuss, but still had that rhythm to it which makes it easy to read and pleasant to listen too. It clearly distinguishes between capitol and lower case, with phrases like "BIG A little a What begins with A? " Although some prefer to teach children only one set of letters at first, I find it just as easy to teach both, especially when the differences are clearly drawn as in this book. Still for a strict follower of Montessori, the capitol letters would make it inappropriate, as would the letter names. I also believe this book clearly helps a child learn the phonic sound for each letter in a fun and easy way.
* also reviewed on dooyoo.

The Little Engine That Could ABC Time by Watty Piper

Beautiful gentle illustrations best suited to a younger child. Also has hidden pictures to find.

Peter Rabbit's Hide and Seek ABC 
Sliding picture ABC using original Beatrix Potter illustrations. This is a lovely book but please be aware the pictures are very difficult to change and could easily be damaged by young children. This must be used only with close parental supervision.

ABC Letterland
Beautiful illustrations with Letterland characters and text focused on each letter. Very useful for phnoetic reading programmes.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
Rhyming Alphabet Book

And a few other suggestions all by Jerry Pallotta
The Underwater Alphabet Book
Yucky Reptile Alphabet Book
The Bird Alphabet Book
The Extinct Alphabet Book
The Butterfly Alphabet Book
The Construction Alphabet Book
The Airplane Alphabet Book
The Yummy Alphabet Book

Putting it all together

the alphabet tree by Leo Liomi
A sweet gentle story of a friendly  bee who teaches the letters on the alphabet tree to join together in words and sentences to  stay safe in the storm.

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