Imagining the ABCs


An Artist’s Alphabet, by Norman Messenger; Candlewick Press, $17.99, 48 pages, all ages. 

Alphabet books are especially popular this time of year, and one particular standout is Norman Messenger’s latest offering, An Artist’s Alphabet. Each letter is illustrated by an irreverent illustration. At first glance, the artwork may be confusing–why are cats standing in at the letter D? It’s the shapes the felines make with their oversize bodies that illustrate the letter at hand. Watercolor and pencil renderings of gryphons, boots, and three-headed dragons all pitch in to teach the ABCs to pre-literate and emerging readers, but readers of all ages will delight in this special presentation.

Remembering 9/11

 @911day @peachtreepublishers @peachtreepub

Seven and a Half Tons of Steel, by Janet Nolan, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez; Peachtree Publishers, $17.95, 36 pages, ages 6-10.

There’s been plenty of debate on the best way to discuss 9/11 with youngsters, and even after fifteen years it’s still difficult for many adults to process it, let alone talk about it with children. Full disclosure: I am not ready to have that conversation with my seven-year-old, and probably won’t be for some time. Still, those looking for a sensitive yet compelling picture book highlighting one way Americans found strength in the face of adversity, Seven and a Half Tons of Steel would be my pick.

Janet Nolan’s narration is simple and driven mostly by Thomas Gonzalez’s (Toad Weather; 14 Crows for America) dramatic artwork. The story starts on the endpapers, where a young schoolboy gazes up at a plane careening through a robin’s-egg-blue sky, headed for the World Trade Center jutting out of horizon. It’s a different perspective than one might expect–the boy is in the foreground, the plane barely painted onto the top of the picture, and the buildings almost an afterthought. It’s a section easily skipped, because at first glance the image is almost serene: a boy holding his baseball glove and books, heading to school. And then we all know what happens next.

After the towers collapse, Nolan traces the retrieval of a steel beam from the wreckage, which is then shipped to a New Orleans shipyard to be turned into the bow of the USS New York. There’s no smooth sailing for this journey; Hurricane Katrina slowed down the work considerably, but eventually the beam becomes a bow, the entire endeavor illustrating how men and women of this country united to heal by turning remnants of a disaster into a symbol of strength.

Strength forged through sacrifice. Never forget.

Beatrix Potter’s Forgotten Tale Published at Last

@penguinrandomhouse @beatrixpotter (via Beatrix Potter’s Forgotten Tale Published at Last – The Fine Books Blog)