Children’s Book Reviews

Children's Book Reviews: Alpha

Publish September 25, 2015

During the First and Second World Wars, English and American armed forces used spelling alphabets, in which each of the 26 letters have a corresponding word (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc.), to make sure their radio messages were clearly understood. In the 1950s, NATO adopted a standardized phonetic alphabet, which is currently in use by the military, firefighters, air traffic controllers, and many others. Writer and artist Isabelle Arsenault has used this alphabet to create another exquisite picture book. Alpha illustrates the NATO Phonetic Alphabet in simple, thought-provoking pictures. With her meticulous artistry and whimsical imagination, Arsenault presents us with a full-skirted, glamorous ball gown for the word “Oscar,” a Monopoly hotel for “Hotel,” and a sexy red and black leather dancing shoe for “Tango.” Many of her pictures will spark those rambling conversations that are so delightful when reading to a child. The bowler hat for “Charlie” will introduce Charlie Chaplin, the ghost-like images of Juliet in a medicine bottle and Romeo in the blade of a dagger will lead to the story of the star-crossed lovers, and the wind-up record player for “Victor” will open the door to a discussion of early technology and the RCA Victor dog. Children and grownups will enjoy using its simple code to spell their names and write messages. For example, I read it to my Charlie Alpha Tango (cat) and he was completely Romeo Alpha Papa Tango (rapt)! As with all Arsenault’s previous books, her artwork is simple, enchanting, and dreamy. The fashions have a distinct 1950s feel to them, in keeping with the origin of the alphabet. A lovely book to read aloud, or to sit with quietly and slowly turn the pages, Alpha is the perfect gift for a curious child.  


Isabelle Arsenault
Candlewick Press A division of Penguin Random House
ISBN 13: 978-0-7636-7852-4