Thursday, August 23, 2012

A to Z Books for Back to School

Has it really been a month since my last post?  I guess summer really does a number on routine!  I hope to get back into the weekly swing of things.  In honor of this exciting time of year, I'm offering A to Z books to kick off the new school year.  I hope, teachers, you can use these in your classrooms and, parents, that you have fun sharing them with your children!

Z is for Moose (Kelly Bingham; Paul O. Zelinsky) – As an aspiring author, I’ve heard that alphabet books don’t sell, unless they have a unique twist.  Well, this book by Kelly Bingham, cleverly illustrated by the amazing Paul Zelinsky, gives us just that with a whopping sense of humor.  Talk about a page turner!  Starting with the inexplicable title, the reader just wants to find out more.  I love the setting of the stage, with each letter getting its time in the spotlight.  Until Moose interferes, that is.  A to Z books have surpassed the early reader stage.  Get this one out for your preschooler, your middle school student, or your grandfather and all will enjoy!

Alphabet Under Construction (Denise Fleming) – Mouse is determined to build the alphabet.  Luckily verbs from A to Z come in handy! (Pun intended.) Denise Fleming’s bright and funny illustrations help the youngest readers “read” the book.

Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth (Mary McKenna Siddals; Ashley Wolff) – This book is so timely.  Students are now making composts at school and learning about decomposition through this important natural recycler. Compost Stew is a clever A to Z rhyming book with fabulous collage illustrations made from recycled/reused materials. A fun way to learn about composting and inspire new composters!

Bad Kitty (Nick Bruel) – First of all, I LOVE the two bite marks taken out of the cover and book pages. You can tell you are dealing with a really BAD KITTY!  Second, this unique A to Z book features a fun story, character change and FOUR, yes FOUR, sets of alphabets!  And where else will you find “Chicken Cheesecake” and “Insect Ice Cream” for “C” and “I”???  And if you can't get enough of Bad Kitty, there are more and more of them!

A Gardener’s Alphabet (Mary Azarian) – Mary Azarian’s unique wood block illustrations are the heart of this book.  From relaxing in an “Arbor” at the book’s onset to harvesting an enormous “Zucchini!” at the end, Azarian explores gardenscapes and vocabulary from various cultures, seasons, and angles.

Girls: A to Z (Eve Bunting; Suzanne Bloom) – An empowering alphabet book that features girls in various occupations.  The message, while obvious, is no less powerful.  Girls can be anything they dream to be!

Backseat A-B-See (Maria van Lieshout) – Cringing about the car trip you have planned with the kids?  Take this book along for some fun with signs.  See how many you can spot!  Are there other signs that would go with each letter?  This book is a game in disguise!

A Isn’t for Fox: An Isn’t Alphabet (Wendy Ulmer; Laura Knorr) – Each letter in this unusual alphabet book is a short rhyme of what the letter is and isn’t, ripe for illustrating.  Laura Knorr runs with the text and creates colorful juxtapositions that make you smile.  Children love the game of searching the picture for all that is mentioned in the text.  Great fun!

Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions (Margaret Musgrove; Leo and Diane Dillon) – Winner of the Caldecott Medal, this superbly illustrated A to Z book featuring 26 African tribes is a must-have for teachers with an Africa unit in their curriculum.  Late elementary and middle school would be the student audience for this book since the text is challenging, new words need to be pronounced and the cultures are intricate and varied.  As a third grade teacher, I used only the letters appropriate to my lesson, as it would be an overwhelming read, otherwise.

ABC (Dr. Seuss) – Classic, silly rhymes from the master!  I’m especially fond of M: “Many mumbling mice are making midnight music in the moonlight... mighty nice.” and O: “O is very useful. You use it when you say: ‘Oscar’s only ostrich oiled an orange owl today.’” since I’ve used both as vocal warm-ups!  Actually, there is a whole vocal warm-up version of this book.


  1. What a great assortment of clever ABC books, Laura! I'm delighted to find Compost Stew included, and thank you for such an enthusiastic review.

    1. My pleasure! I have a soft sport for agricultural books for kids. I'm trying to get a NF book for MG/YA about CSAs published. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Spotted your excellent list while searching for unusual alphabet books for my program (here, in case it useful for you):