Books Dragons Mermaids Vampires Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes

[Nonfiction Wednesday] A Fantastical Alphabet by Norman Messenger

nfpb2016logo (1)

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.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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! 😀


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: