So here’s ANOTHER Oliver Jeffers book, his latest. Let it be known that I have a huge crush on Oliver Jeffers. Not only is he Irish and cute, has a fantastic sense of humour, and an extraordinarily interesting intellect – he is also an outstanding illustrator. In fact, he has become a bit of an illustrator celebrity.
Remember Marie-Louise Gay’s book Any Questions? and how it breaks the usual children’s book format if only by the amount of pages it has? Once Upon An Alphabet does the same. It’s a bring your coffee and muffin to the couch and read for a bit this morning kind of children’s book, which is exactly what I did (with my dog, Margaret Atwood). A different take on the usual “A is for Astronaut” type of book, Oliver Jeffers creates twenty-six short stories for each letter of the alphabet.
As usual, Jeffers’ characters jump off the page with animation while using the simplest of forms (in much the same way as a cartoonist would). It’s an excellent study for an illustrator who wants to learn how to tell so much with so little. It’s about thinking – what’s the action I can use here that would describe the emotion/situation exactly – a little bit like writing poetry.
What I really love about the book is it’s a bit retro! Remember those old fairy tale/nursury rhyme books with the monochrome colouring? Like this one…
With those nursury rhymes that didn’t make any sense at all about putting people in pies and such, and which were usually a bit dark and perilous.
I would also be interested in asking Oliver Jeffers about his choice of words for each letter. Sometimes he deals with grown up themes in his books, and I think he might be doing that in this one too – just as the old fairy tales did, and author/illustrators like Maurice Sendak.
The BEST part – characters re-visited! The boy and the penguin in The Way Back Home, Lost and Found and Up and Down, and Marcel the Moose.
This goreous, giant book is only $26.99. The giving season is coming up. It sits nicely on your coffee table because you could pick it up a million times and enjoy it just the same.