Alphaprints: ABC

Alphaprints: ABCAlphaprints: ABC by Roger Priddy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

ABC books are hard, complicated beasts. It’s about pitch, I think, and it’s a vicious hard thing to get right is this concept of pitch. Children will form and shape their letters at different ages, in different ways, and have different ideas of what these odd marks are. Letter learning is a complicated, complex and immense beast.

But I love this. This ABC from Priddy Books is gorgeous and it’s gorgeous for one very key reason. Each page is constructed in the fairly traditional format of ‘C is for Cat’ etc, but it’s the images that make me so very happy. They’re all centred around thumb prints. So, for example, in ‘D is for Dinosaur’ we have a big green thumb print dinosaur with thumb print ridges and a tail, head and legs added on in thick bold marker.

Centring this book around the concept of thumb prints is beautiful. The difficulty with a lot of books like this is that sometimes the language and concepts are vastly removed from real life and there’s no way to bridge that gap from book through to real life. There’s a moment in pre/emergent literacy where readers shift from realising that images in a book are very much that – images. Constructs.

And I suspect that the thumb prints will help hugely with that. I can’t imagine of anything more joyous than making a big old thumb print, hand print, foot print ABC because it’s telling you that you can make these shapes, that you can create those shapes, and that language has a physical, vibrant connection to you. I saw a documentary once about a teacher who taught punctuation judo. He lifted the punctuation off the page and got his students to chop and punch the air in the shapes of semi-colons. That living – that physical interaction with language – is brilliant. Use this book as a catalyst for play. Run your fingers over the ridges of the prints. It’s made of such meaty paper too that I’m tempted to recreate the images on each page with my own painty thumbprint (though I haven’t tested this!). But you don’t have to stay in the book with prompts like: “R is for Rhino: That Stomps on the Ground”, there’s pages that demand giddy, giggling play. Dip your hands in paint and make big, sprawling letters. Write with your fingers in mud or snow or in icing. Play with it.

It’s a catalyst, this book, and it’s beautifully put together. I really like it. And I also love how there’s a sense of whimsy to a lot of the illustrations: the walrus with banana tusks, the squirrel with a feather duster tail and the jellyfish with squiggly pipecleaner tentacles. This is a really charming, fun book.

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