Okay. So. Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers is not your typical a is for apple, b is for ball kind of alphabet book. It won’t be the one you’ll use with a preschooler to help them learn their ABCs.
Once Upon an Alphabet: short stories for all the letters will be much better suited to older kids. Humorous, twisted, silly and sometimes slightly macabre, these 26 stories are an entertaining romp, playing with language and story.
A is for Astronaut Edmund who is working to overcome his fear of heights. Check in with Z and we learn that Edmund has now reached a cruising altitude of 4 feet while flying in a Zeppelin.
F is for Ferdinand and his pet frog who throw a penny into the world’s biggest hole to see how long it will take to hit the bottom. Fast forward to the future and Old-man Ferdinand still stands with hand cupped to ear waiting for the sound of the penny hitting the bottom. His pet frog, unfortunately, is now long past his best before date.
O is for Owl and Octopus, two friends who look solve some of life’s little problems.
S is for a regular cucumber who wants to live the life of a sea cucumber. Taking ‘the plunge’, he dives into the sea but realizes too late that he doesn’t know how to swim and sinks straight to the bottom. Owl and Octopus to the rescue.
Not all the stories connect to each other. Some rhyme, but most don’t. Many have playful alliteration that obviously focuses on whichever letter of the alphabet is mentioned.
It’s the illustrations that convey the silliness or wryness of the stories: not overly detailed, with a fairly simple colour palette with watercolour washes that capture the whimsical nature of each vignette.
I love Oliver Jeffers. Don’t you?