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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

H is for Hip: New Books — Paul Thurlby's Alphabet

Paul Thurlby's Alphabet
by Paul Thurlby

Years back, when first venturing back into the world of picture books in order to buy reading material for my then-baby daughter, I remember saying to myself, “Why do people bother making alphabet books anymore? What could anyone possibly bring to the genre that would be fresh or different?” Of course, I had my cynicism thrown back in my face by works like Alethea Kontis’s super-clever AlphaOops! and Neil Gaiman’s entertainingly eerie Dangerous Alphabet. Nowadays, I have a special appreciation for ABC books that bring that extra zing. The latest book to fit into that category is Paul Thurlby’s Alphabet.

Graphic artist Thurlby has a flashy retro-mod style that is undeniably cool. Every page of this book — with its faux-weathered edges and not-of-this-era color schemes — carries the instant hipness an old tin diner sign. The illustrations make you think Ed Emberley was working at Sterling Cooper. You almost want to rip them out and frame them — but you don’t have to, because the dust jacket unfolds into a poster (!).

Paul Thurlby's Alphabet Book © 2011 by Paul Thurlby. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

But it’s not just that these pics are so beautiful, they’re also wonderfully creative in their representations of the different letters. The subject of each illustration not only begins with the letter in question, but is also made out of that letter. “M” becomes a pair of twin peaks in what looks like a period travel advertisement. “S” is a what-we-used-to-think-the-future-would-look-like space station. “F” is the roaring head of a “fierce” lion. And “A” is, appropriately, awesome. 

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