Bookworm: Back to Basics

by guest blogger, Sarah Sawler

Despite the unrelenting heat, the new school year is quickly creeping up us. Carefree summer days and up-past-your-bedtime nights will soon be replaced by days of more structured discovery. With the first day of school looming ahead of us, it’s time to adjust. What better way to ease your kids back into routine than by going back to basics with ABC books. But be warned—alphabet books aren’t just for toddlers anymore.


ABC: A Child’s First Alphabet Book By Alison Jay

Recommended for ages 0-2

While this one is definitely targeted at toddlers, the illustrations in this board book will appeal to readers of all ages. The text is fairly traditional, beginning with “A is for Apple” and ending with “Z is for Zoo”, but the whimsical and thoughtful detail in the illustrations are the real reason to pick this one up. Each page is ingeniously linked to the next by very small details. The roses that border a quilt on one page can be found in a vase on the next. On another page, someone holds a small drawing of a panda bear. Turn the page to find an illustration featuring that same bear. Toddlers and adults alike will have fun inspecting each picture and figuring out how everything is connected. If your child loved Each Peach, Pear, Plum then this one is for you.


Z is for Moose By Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky

Recommended for ages 2-6

Poor Moose. He was so excited to be in the book, only to be replaced by a Mouse. This rollicking picture book tells the story of what happens when a zebra is charge of an alphabet book and how everything falls apart when someone gets left out. Children will strongly relate to Moose’s range of emotions as the book progresses. With his impatience for his turn, his indignation when it doesn’t arrive, an impressive temper tantrum, sobs in the corner and satisfaction when justice is restored, Moose demonstrates a pattern that is all too familiar for most parents. The action-packed illustrations and running dialogue between Moose and Zebra will keep your kids giggling all the way to the end, when Zebra finally makes things right. Fans of Melanie Watts will love this one.


Dr Seuss’s ABC

Recommended for ages 1-5

Dr Seuss’s ABC is a classic that can’t be left off of any list of ABC books. Have fun introducing your kids to a book that was more than likely a childhood favourite of yours. This book is a welcome departure from the books where A’s are for Apples and X’s are for Xylophones. Each page is indisputably Seuss—this characteristically odd and endearing book is populated by aunts riding alligators, lollipop-licking lions, ostriches oiling owls and features the white and pink checkered Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz. From the fantastical illustrations to the silly rhymes, this title is sure to remain a bookshelf staple for generations to come.


The Dangerous Alphabet By Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Gris Grimly

Officially recommended for ages 5 and up—bookworm recommended for ages 7-10.

The author of Coraline has teamed up with illustrator Gris Grimly to create what could very well be the most fantastically creepy alphabet book ever published. Two adventurous children set off to explore a dark underworld filled with pirates, monsters and fairy-tale inspired creatures. The alphabet is used to tell the story of the children’s misadventures and to a keen adult eye, the illustrations are disturbingly detailed but beautifully imagined. This book is intended as much for adults as for children and—if read to the appropriate audience—would be the perfect read on a dark and stormy night. Although I highly recommend this book to very brave children and their adults, please be sure to have a read through yourself before picking this one up for your child. The imagery would disturb some children.

Whether your kids are in the mood for gorgeous illustrations, some silly Moose antics, a timeless classic, or a super-scary page turner, get a start on back-to-school learning by revisiting those ABC’s.


Sarah Sawler lives in St Margarets Bay, N.S., with her partner and her two boys. A love of reading has inspired her career in magazine and web writing, as well as her upcoming blog, Between the Lines, which is expected to launch in September 2012.