An artist's alphabet by Norman Messenger

cover image

Walker Studio, 2016. ISBN 9781406346763
(Age: All) Highly recommended. Aptly named An artist's alphabet, the stunning illustrations make this a stand-out picture book. Ranging from drawings of fabulous animals, beautiful flowers and stylish buildings the reader is taken through the upper and lower case letters of the alphabet each on a double page spread. Starting with Aa, there is a wonderful acrobat standing on top of a horse and another curled up to make the small letter a. The illustrations for the letter Bb are a little more difficult to work out, but beetles and a butterfly can be seen. From this beginning the reader would expect to see a traditional alphabet book, with the pictures matching the letters - but this is not always so. When the page is turned to the letter Cc, beautiful waves are drawn, but the reader is left wondering how the waves represent a Cc. This trend continues throughout the book - a very round grey cat is on the Dd page, but the Gg page has subtly patterned goldfish. Hh is easy to identify with its wondrous multi-storied houses with archways and bridges, but the trees and tree trunk for Rr is much more difficult to work out.
The strange and fantastic drawings will also pull the individual into the wonderful world of the imagination, providing so many stimulating pictures that the reader will want to look at again and again, not just to try and work out the associations with the letters, but for their beauty and delicacy of colour. It is a book that begs to be shared with other people, leading to discussions of what the illustralions could refer to and coming up with different solutions.
This is a book that I can see becoming a classic, one that people who appreciate the surreal and beautiful will want to keep on their book shelves.
Pat Pledger