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[Nonfiction Wednesday] A Fantastical Alphabet by Norman Messenger

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Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2016 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year.

I have a special affinity for Norman Messenger’s picturebooks, having reviewed his Imagine and The Land Of Neverbelieve. And so when I heard that he has a new concept book out, I immediately ordered it. Plus the fact, that I love ingeniously-designed alphabet books.


An Artist’s Alphabet

Created by: Norman Messenger
Published by: Walker Books, 2016
ISBN: 1406346764 (ISBN13: 9781406346763)
Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

I think it is important to remember that this is a unique concept book that helps the young reader appreciate the aesthetic of the alphabet. It does not set out to “teach” the alphabet per se in the usual way that parents might have grown to expect. For one, the images per letter do not necessarily correspond to the first letter of that picture (see below):


It is a challenging concept book that invites discussion – and shows in quite an ingenious fashion how we can see letters all around us, even in the most unusual of places. It truly is an artist’s way of perceiving the world, making this a fascinating visual read.


There are also occasions when parts of the image correspond to the idea being conveyed by Messenger, such as in the ink above, but there are multiple layers here that also need to be unpacked, with the rolled scroll forming an I, and the image of the fountain pen that created the ink blot, thereby forming a small letter i.


Then there is of course the trademark fantastical musings captured by Messenger in the letters of the alphabet. Who knew letters can be so magical? The image above is my favourite. A perfect K.


I especially liked Messenger’s use of white space, as can be seen in the letter R here. And just like all his other picturebooks, this one also deserves a continual re-read, as there are more to discover in each reading. What a beautiful way to (re)discover the letters of our alphabet, indeed.

2 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] A Fantastical Alphabet by Norman Messenger

  1. This looked beautiful. It’s kind of interesting how abstract alphabet are getting!


  2. That’s gorgeous! 😀


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