A B See [Review]

A is for Apple. 

B is for Ball. 

C is for what?

If you said Cat then you have probably read more than a few abecedaries in your day. There are no shortage of great alphabet books out there. I wrote about one of my favourites here before. They serve as an important staple of any toddler’s book collection. Most of us have looked through so many in our time that we can recite, almost instinctively, that D is for Dog and E is for Elephant.

ABC books help introduce the alphabetic principle by focusing on the onset of words. The beginning sound is the most salient aspect of many words. The whole “Letter is for Thing” thing helps make that connection for emergent readers. Also, the compendium of animals, objects, and concepts are great for building vocabulary. But not all abecedaries are created equal. The cleverly named A B See by Elizabeth Doyle is an exemplary one.

Illustrator, designer, and author Lizzy Doyle is the artist behind this extraordinary depiction of English’s 26 letters. However, it is much more than a list of words that start with each one. Every character is made up beautifully rendered and wildly random illustrations that, of course, begin with that letter. So O, for example, has an oak leaf, an octagon, an octopus, an olive, the number one, an onion, an opossum, an optical illusion, a glass of orange juice, some oranges, an orca whale, origami, an ostrich, an otter, some ovals, an owl, an ox, and an oyster. And a tiny letter O, a trend that is repeated in each character and adds another layer of interest for would-be eye-spiers.

The stunning illustrations and crafty design are enough to make this little book a treat for readers of all ages. But there is more. Each letter has a sentence associated with it. So our multifaceted O has, “Ostrich overlooks oodles of oranges.” This tempts the reader into creating their own sentences in the same vein. “Orca oogles an olive over otter,” perhaps.


A B See is a ‘board book’ which are generally considered to be for infants and toddlers but I think many primary and elementary teachers would appreciate its robust construction. The design of each monogram could be an introduction to an art project where students create similar object-filled letters for their names. The search-and-find nature lends it to being shared with a partner. The accompanying sentences encourage vocabulary extensions. The illustrations evoking a naturalists drawings are simply a pleasure to look at. 

Finally, the book has an index of all the objects that appear in each letter. This comes in handy when you are stuck, as I was, trying to figure out what a certain object may be. I was a long time staring at a fish-tank in A, an airplane in J and a ball in S. Any guesses what they turned out to be?

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