Alphabet books are sort of utilitarian in function: teaching the ABCs, but many are standouts of art, design, storytelling, and other loveliness to boot. I give you these three favorites in chronological order, but please add your picks to the comments!
A B C, 1 2 3:
Bruno Munari’s ABC (1960/ reissued by Chronicle in 2006).
I like the bold, modern design, the big block capital letters, and how each letter often gets more than one corresponding object.
And see that little fly buzzing toward the pink ice cream? It appears throughout the book and plays a crucial role in the very last letter of the alphabet too.
A Farmer’s Alphabet by Mary Azarian (1981).
I like the gorgeously stark black and white woodcuts all about life on a Vermont farm. Apple, Barn, Icicles, Kite, Neighbor, Yawn. Time may advance, but some things stay the same. Like the alphabet. Like daily surroundings and tasks.
M is for Music by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Stacy Innerst (2003).
This is one of the first picture books I bought, and it was pretty much purely for the artwork. At first. But there’s more.
I like the way it covers more than just names of instruments, but styles of music, bits of lyrics, and even diverse greats like Armstrong, Elvis, Mozart, and the Beatles (with a nice nod to music teachers at the letter M too!).
There’s so much beauty and whimsy in this book, in all these books, that expresses even more than ABCs.