I tried to get the list down to 5, but each of these has something special, so in the end there are 7...
1. Alphabet by Alison Jay
Large board book – Templar Publishing
Not only in this ABC packed with Alison Jay’s unique crackled illustrations, but it’s stuffed to the rafters with detail. On the surface ‘F is for Frog’, but the image reveals fish and flowers and a fence and a fishing rod and two kinds of fly and, if you look really closely, a fork. There are also references to images and characters on other pages and taken together the alphabet is a loose story (or journey). You and your child will get a lot out of this – highly recommended.
Jane Foster’s ABC
Board book – Templar Publishing
In terms of simple, eye-catching design that babies will love, you can’t beat Jane Foster’s alphabet. A satisfying object in itself. (And then you can buy the mugs and tea towels and everything else!)
Dahlov Ipcar’s Wild Animal Alphabet
Board book – Islandport Press
I’ve recently discovered Ipcar’s books and am slightly besotted with her illustrations. I am usually a bit wary of alphabet books that just piece together images from the author’s existing work (lazy!), but I’ve made an exception in this case because the images are so appealing, and because she’s made a good effort at creating some interesting rhyming text that is good to read out loud.
Lucy & Tom’s a.b.c. by Shirley Hughes
Puffin books (out of print)
I know I’m always harping on about Shirley Hughes books, but it’s only because they are so good. This one is out of print, but copies are available cheaply. (I notice some of the other Lucy and Tom titles have been reissued, so fingers crossed.)
What makes this alphabet book stand out is that it does what Hughes does so well, by relating back to real life. The book is full of little stories and vignettes from Lucy and Tom’s very normal life – exactly how children really learn their alphabet, by looking at the things around them. There is loads to look at and engage with for young children. This is a current favourite of my 3.5 year old and always results in lengthy conversations.
Quentin Blake’s ABC
Red Fox Picture Books
Quentin Blake’s alphabet is as anarchic, entertaining and poignant as his other work. The quality of the text and illustrations means I couldn’t miss it off.
Eating the Alphabet
Board Book - HMH Books for Young Readers (USA)
This one is from the USA and so despite the inevitable Aubergine/Eggplant problem I think it’s a great idea, executed well. Lovely bright illustrations and as it’s all fruit and vegetables, a subject that would make Jamie Oliver very happy indeed.
Beautiful Birds by J. Roussen & E. Walker
Flying Eye books
This book showcases publisher Flying Eye’s production values to nth degree – it’s stunning! – Rich colours and amazing neon. No mention of an alphabet on the cover, but it’s a true ABC of avian delights inside. The text rhymes and so is great to read to little ones, but this book is so gorgeous, I doubt you’ll want to let them get their grubby little paws on it. This is an alphabet book for all ages, but mainly for you. Get and it and treasure it.