#365PictureBooks Day 7 – Once upon an alphabet : short stories for all the letters

“The letters of our alphabet work tirelessly to make words that in turn make stories, but what if there was a story for each of the letters instead?”

“Here you will discover twenty-six short stories introducing a host of new characters (plus the occasional familiar face). From Edmund the astronaut with his awkward fear of heights, via the dynamic new investigative duo of the Owl and the Octopus, through to the Zeppelin that just might get Edmund a little bit closer to where he needs to be, this book is packed with funny, thrilling, perilous and above all entertaining tales inspired by every letter in the alphabet.

An adventure to follow from A to Z, or a treasure trove to dip in and out of, Once Upon an Alphabet is a work of exhilarating originality from artist Oliver Jeffers, the creator of much-loved modern classics such as Lost and Found and The Incredible Book Eating Boy”. Publisher website.

This book has featured in many “Best of 2014” lists recently. Despite that, I decided I wanted to look at it for myself before ordering for our library only because on reading it was 112 pages long I was wondering whether it was a standard picture book, or not. It isn’t! Any picture book written by Oliver Jeffers is usually an automatic purchase for us – his picture books have the quirkiness factor that always appeals to our students, younger and older children alike. Children love the outright bizarre, and quirky eccentricities of the characters in each book and delight in the contrast with their serious natures (thinking of Floyd in Stuck)! Any read aloud session with a book like Stuck is accompanied by incredulous laughter at the sheer but slightly restrained barminess of the character’s exploits.

Back to Once upon an alphabet…oh my goodness, this book is gorgeous! I picked it up at the Timeout Bookstore in Mount Eden and was immediately impressed with the size and weight. It is folio size and quite thick.  The bright orange cover is a real eye catcher and even the hard-cover underneath is embossed with the letters in the familiar Oliver Jeffers style (I wonder why isn’t there an Oliver Jeffers downloadable font one can purchase?)




This isn’t a typical ABC book, but I doubt whether anyone would try and use it that way. The story starts off with the letter A for astronaut, ‘Edmund’ who wants to travel into space to meet aliens, but there is a problem, “Space was about three hundred and twenty-eight thousand, four hundred and sixteen feet above him…and Edmund had a fear of heights. Anything over three feet in the air was a bit much for him...”. The reader can read  from A-Z (and will discover that some of the stories are connected )all the way to Z for zeppelin featuring Edmund again, or they can dip into it a letter at a time.

My favourite letter is E – where the author asks us “How many elephants can you fit inside an envelope?

 Source : Author website

This is a delightful, funny and quirky book that kids will read and love… some of those usually reluctant reading kids (the few who don’t equate reading with fun) may not even realise that they are reading!

Bibliographic details:

Once upon an alphabet : short stories for all the letters / Written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, designed by Rory Jeffers.

Published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2014.

112 pages.

ISBN: 9780007514274

NZ RRP : $35.00

I purchased this copy from Timeout Books and it is also available to borrow from Auckland Libraries


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