Ten Great Alphabet Books

Ten Great Alphabet Books December 5, 2013

I love, love, love alphabet books.  There is something so satisfying about getting everything all squared away by page 26.  Here are ten of my favorites:



Superhero ABC by Bob McLeod

So great.  Each letter has its own superhero — no one you’ll recognize from Marvel or DC, but heroes like Captain Cloud, who calmly catches crooks, or Laughing Lass, who laughs loudly at lawbreakers (she’s a little looney).  Funny and clever, and occasionally a little crude, but not sleazy!


A Is for Angry:  An Animal and Adjective Alphabet by Sandra Boynton

Sandra Boynton is the best.   It all looks like frivolous cartoon stuff, but Boynton has real talent for comedic timing — something that is lacking in so many kids’ books (authors think that kids just want the story to be silly or comforting or simple, and don’t bother to craft or shape the story).


I Spy:  An Alphabet in Art by the enchantingly named Lucy Micklethwait

Such a great idea!  You have to hunt for the word that starts with each letter — which makes kids slow down and look carefully at great art.  A painless way to introduce some art appreciation to the young parsons.



Animalia by Graeme Base

I haven’t actually seen this one for a while, but I remember the kids all loving it.  Lots of weird little details and solemnly intense images that most kids find fascinating.



Black and White Rabbit’s ABC by Alan Baker

Cute, cute, cute, without being cutesy.  The rabbit kid wants to paint a picture for his mother, and he ends up with something nice — but not before ink is spilled, glue gets out of control, etc.



Anno’s Alphabet:  An Adventure in Imagination by Mitsumasa Anno

Mildly trippy! Optical illusions, head-scratchers, and just some weirdness.  I especially liked trying to identify all the obscure alphabetized items hidden in the borders (and there is a key at the end).



Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky

What happens when a capable, businesslike zebra is trying to organize a nice orderly alphabet book, only to be stymied by a rather emotional moose who doesn’t know his place.



Of course Doctor Seuss’ ABC 

Never gets old. This one has particular sentimental value for me because, on the first night my husband and I got together, I got drunk as a skunk and attempted to recite the entire book (under the impression that this made me charming and irresistible).  I got bogged down on Many Mumbling Mice, and I forget what happened after that. I think we got married.



Little Dinosaur ABC Dover coloring book

Nothing really special about this one, really just a reminder that these little Dover books (they are about 4×6 inches) are invariably nice, and make good stocking stuffers.  I also really like the Dover stained glass coloring books, make of translucent paper.  If you color them with crayon or especially with marker, you can put them in the window for a lovely effect.  Some of these are the 4×6 size, and some are full book sized.



A You’re Adorable illustrated by sweet Martha Alexander

An illustrated version of the popular 1940’s song:  “A, you’re adorable; B, you’re so beautiful; C, you’re a cutie full of charms . . . ”  So cute and nice, full of happy children playing with babies and puppies and the like.  A nice present for a baby’s first Christmas.  We have the sturdy board book, which has endured much fond chewing.


 What’s your favorite alphabet book?  And why are there no good Catholic ones?  I see a few for sale, but the illustrations look a little feeb.  Seems like it would be a natural, though — Athanasius to Zachariah.  Right?  Don’t steal this idea, I’m totally doing it.

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  • roughplacesplain

    Lois Ehlert’s Eating the Alphabet and Eric Carle’s ABC were two of our favorites, back in the day – nancyo

  • Martha Oram

    YES – why is there no alphabet of SAINTS!!
    My sister-in-law used to play this game with her group of friends. They’d go around in a circle having to name a saint for each letter of the alphabet.

  • Tracy Reeves

    Not a book… but I love the Barenaked Ladies’ Alphabet Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dvPhtNZCj0

  • Kara

    Robert Hugh Benson actually did write an Alphabet of Saints (so it’s probably awesome), but it is currently out of print. Simcha, please use your powers for good and start a campaign to bring it back! (I heard you know a publisher… )

    Here’s Benson’s Alphabet – http://www.abebooks.com/Alphabet-Saints-Drawn-Lindsay-Symington-Robert/6072465784/bd

    p.s. Loved your book!

    • Anna Bloomfield

      We have this book and love it. We got ours from Ignatius Press and I’ve also gotten them for gifts off Amazon (currently out of stock there, but I bet they get more). http://www.amazon.com/Alphabet-Saints-Robert-Hugh-Benson/dp/1930873123

      The illustrations are just black and white sketches but I appreciate the simplicity. We have a print of the D for Saint Dominic page framed and hanging in our son Dominic’s bedroom.

  • Anna

    “Achoo! Bang! Crash!” by Ross MacDonald is a favorite around here. Wood type, set by hand, with goofy illustrations to go with each sound effect.

    Clearly I’m going to need to add some of your list to our library. We like Lucy Micklethwait, but we don’t have that one. And there’s always more Boynton out there, no matter how much we acquire…

  • An Alphabet of Catholic Saints:

    My kids love this one. And there’s a nifty post to go with it.
    Also, not a book, but we love “Here Come the ABCs” by They Might Be Giants.

  • Monica

    Richard Wilbur’s “The Disappearing Alphabet.” Elegant illustrations accompany discussion, in verse, of what would happen if each letter disappeared. For instance, without F, “our raincoats would be merely WATERPROO. / And that is such a silly word, I doubt / that it would help to keep the water out.”

    • Anna

      I can’t believe I forgot this one! We love it too!

  • RH

    I love this one–objects around the city that look like the letters, sometime obvious ones, sometimes very creative. Beautiful pictures. http://www.amazon.com/Alphabet-City-Stephen-T-Johnson/dp/0140559043

  • pinch

    My son’s favorite (in his 20’s now) was Alphabugs by David Carter. Lots of popups and such!

  • Orville

    The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey

  • LeticiaVelasquez

    And for Christmas, we enjoy “B is for Bethlehem” which is written in rhyme.


  • zonohedron

    Alphasaurus is great (if you’re good with dinosaur names, anyway). It has my favorite dinosaur in it, it’s got cute pictures, and it includes a Tyrannosaurus Rex tiptoeing through a tidepool. What’s not to like?

  • Gina Brewton

    Books with lots of pictures .That is what kiddos like in this age.Thanks for the suggestion well we already have one of these books at home.”Animalia” by Graeme Base.I used to read lot story books for him.Well if you are a mom of a kid you must surely check this out: http://weewatch.com/making-a-quality-child-care-choice/wee-learn-educational-program/

  • Stephanie

    How ’bout “The Alphabet from A to Y with bonus letter Z” by none other than Mr. Steve Martin? Can’t remember the illustrator’s name, sorry.

    Sample: “B: Bad Baby Bubbleducks beat up his bead with bashed up bananas and old moldy bread.”

  • Karen

    I’m shocked that “A, My Name is Alice” from illustrator Stephen Kellogg isn’t on this list! It is definitely my favorite alphabet book. My younger brother and I would recite it from memory in the car ALL THE TIME when we were young. My mom is a saint.
    Thanks for the new ideas–I had never heard of any of these and will definitely be getting at least one for a Christmas gift! 🙂

  • Karen

    Oh, and I also have a lovely 1950s Catholic ABC book! It consists of virtues and a little poem about each. I think it was written by a nun and is very sweetly illustrated.

  • Margy Frank

    My favorite alphabet book ever is called ‘Antler, Bear, Canoe- a northwoods alphabet year’ by Betsy Bowen. It’s illustrated with luscious woodcuts that make me homesick. It’s beautiful.

  • Teresa R

    N is for New Hampshire – ABC based on NH sites. I think there’s a book for every state. A neat way to learn some state history.