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Alphabet City

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  1,734 ratings  ·  251 reviews
The urban landscape will never look the same again. As Stephen T. Johnson demonstrates in a series of strikingly realistic pastels and watercolors, a simple sawhorse can contain the letter "A"--while lampposts alongside a highway can form a row of elegant, soaring Ys. A 1996 Caldecott Honor book, this sophisticated, wordless alphabet book is sure to appeal to young and old ...more
32 pages
Published by Turtleback Books (first published October 1st 1995)
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Nov 24, 2014 Miriam rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: New Yorkers
Shelves: picture, the-americas
This would be of especial interest to New Yorkers, as all the sites used as letters seem to be there, but it could also be used as the basis for fun-educational activities like making a similar project in your own area (i.e. finding the letters in your surroundings).

Johnson is a fine realist painter. So fine, in fact, that it quickly occurred to me that he could just as well have used photographs and saved himself a ton of work! Seems like the effect would have been pretty much the same. But her
I don't know why I keep checking out alphabet books for the kids. I guess I'm hoping to reinforce the alphabet for my nephew, but it is rare that the kids really get excited over these kind of books. This one was no exception. My nephew was supremely bored by this book, so he barely even looked at it. As for my niece, the kids in her class have been learning about book awards when they have library day, so lately she's been on the look-out for Caldecott winners or Caldecott Honor books. After we ...more
This is a unique and artistic alphabet book, especially good for children from preschool through early elementary, who will have fun picking out the shapes of familiar letters in everyday objects—some of which are less obvious than others. From the side of a sawhorse that resembles the letter A to the fire-escape that looks like a Z, each page shows the photorealistic painting of the letter in its urban setting with no text to distract the reader. Well deserving of its Caldecott Honor, this book ...more
Emily Birecki
I thought that this book was very clever and artistic. The beautiful illustions feature pictures of the city. It is very creatively done. This being said, UI do not think that it will hold a child's attention. I feel like unless they are being told which letter is which children will not know. I think wordless books can be very effective and very unefective depending on how it is done. This is one of those books that becomes uneffective becuase the child will not be engaged with the illustration ...more
Annette Taylor-james
This book is wordless, however the pictures give creative minds a chance to be just that more creative. Place it in your Art area.
Brooke Snyder
Summary: This wordless picture book shows the reader a realistic and different way to view the letters of the alphabet. Without thinking about it, we see these letters everywhere. The letter Z can be seen as a stairwell walking up to apartment buildings. It’s so unique and even got my thinking about all the different ways I see letters all around me.

Personal Response/Critical Response: This is a unique alphabet book. I would not use this book in my classroom because some of the letters are hard
Mitchell Wade
As stated in the opening pages of the book the paintings were created, "with pastels, water colors, gouache and charcoal on hot pressed watercolor paper", and I think the author did an incredible job of recreating what he saw in real life in his paintings. The pictures almost looked real from time to time. I think the most intriguing letter out of Johnson's rendition of the alphabet was the letter 'B'. It took a second for my eyes to see past the fire stairwell, but I think that is why the book ...more
Rejean Rouse
I greatly enjoyed this book, the construction behind making this book, and the hopes included in its messages. This is a very creative book and its illustrations looked look like live pictures in a different effect. I think this book is age appropriate, and very enjoyable for children. I personally watched a parent read this book to a child in the library downtown and the child was so excited to find the letters and to describe the scenery the letter was in. This was a very exciting moment for b ...more
Autumn Anderson
I very much enjoyed this book as a 21 year old, but do not find it appropriate for preschoolers. The write up in the beginning of this book is written on such a high reading level that middle school students may not even understand some of the words used. The pictures in the book are also so detail oriented, a preschooler would never be able to decipher the actual alphabet letters within the pictures. I do agree that this book could be categorized as a concept book, but would be better suited fo ...more
Joel Wicecarver
One of the first aspects of the book that caught my attention was the author’s book dedication to his parents. The message he sends them testifies to the everlasting effective children’s literature can create on someone. Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed was Johnson’s placement of the introduction because by doing so during the remainder of the book I was really able to emerge into his personal interpretation of Alphabet City. I believe this book is an extremely appropriate concept book ...more
Emily Brooks
“Alphabet City” is a unique and artistic alphabet book, compiling pages full of illustrations from urban, everyday objects. I find this book remarkable due to the fact that Stephen T. Johnson created this book without using a single word or actual letter throughout its entirety. This book is especially well suited for children from preschool through early elementary school age who will enjoy going through each individual page picking out the shapes of familiar letters. From its opening page depi ...more
Holly Reed
"Alphabet City" is a great picture book to teach children not only about the alphabet but also about the world around them. It would be a great book to play interactive games with children while reading, for example having them trace the letter in each picture or asking them what it is that the picture is actually depicting and for what the object is used. Some of the letters are harder to find than others, (for example the letter 'C'), but this just provides opportunity for guided participation ...more
Samantha Mcdowell
This was a cleverly done book because it shows kids that letters can be found outside of words and in unlikely places. Finding letters of the alphabet in places such as in the curve of a lamppost, walkways, or buildings is a good way to get kids to identify letters everyday. With this said, I think some of the pictures would be hard for a very young child who is just learning the alphabet to be able to find and recognize, so I think it should be used more with older kindergarteners and kids of a ...more
Alexis Skyrme
Alphabet City is a great concept book. I find as humans we find letters and shapes in our surroundings sometimes unaware we are even doing it. I would use this in teaching elementary school children because it would improve recognizing letters also there were no words in the book which allow the children to interact with the teacher and help him or her read. I think its appropriate for that age group because it not only promotes the alphabet but it promotes critical thinking because the child h ...more
Kelley Mabon
As a twenty year old adult, I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the illustrations of this book. They are extremely detailed and I can tell that Stephen Johnson put a lot of hard work into incorporating the alphabet into scenes of a big city. Since the book focuses on showing the alphabet I think it is a good concept book, but I don't think it is the best book for preschoolers. I had trouble pointing out the letters on some of the pages, so I know for sure that a preschooler may find it difficult as ...more
Adam Hathcock
Despite being a Caldecott Award winner, I couldn't justify giving Alphabet City a higher rating. As a young adult, I loved the book being that it provides not only the alphabet in a different perspective, but that it takes you on an illustrated journey.

However, for younger children, it may be difficult to discover some letters in the illustrations. For example, I found myself pondering which portion of the image was "C". I think with some guidance or as a group, the this book can be effective i
This book was really intriguing! I really liked the use of life like painted scenes within the city to show outlines of the alphabet.I liked how the reader could use this book with children to introduce the alphabet. However, although the paintings were really awesome it was hard to identify the letter in the scene, such as the letter "C" within the architecture. For this reason I felt like this book is too advanced for the use of the alphabet to preschoolers,and therefore not the best choice of ...more
Austin Mccook
I thought that Alphabet City is a wonderful way for children to visualize the letters of the alphabet outside of a classroom environment. This picture book is perfect for preschool level children because it allows them to actively search for some of the letters. For instance, the letter C requires the reader to account for the shadow that cuts off the side of the circle making it a C rather than an O. Also, the letter T is interesting because it focuses on the gap in between the building which s ...more
I like the concept behind this, but somehow the execution of it didn't really bowl me over. Although I can definitely see why it won a Caldecott Honor. And I did like it more after reading the author's note - which I missed my first time through. This is an alphabet book worth looking at, but it would be pretty far down on my list of favorite alphabet books.
Star Sanders
As a college student, I greatly appreciate all the detail that went into illustrating this book. However, I think some of the letters especially "C"and "G" and "Q" would be difficult for preschoolers to see. This book is definitely a work of art, but it almost seems too detailed to me. Sometimes less is more. I don't think it would hold the attention of a preschooler because it would be out of their zone of proximal development. Overall, besides it being an alphabet book, it did not seem very ap ...more
The letters of the alphabet are illustrated by photos taken around the city, with everyday objects forming the letters. By B, I was lost. And I know the alphabet. I can’t imagine a toddler being able to pick out the B formed by the fire escape. A clever idea. Well done. But over the heads of children learning the alphabet.
Stacie Robison
I thought this book was a very creative way of incorporating the alphabet into a book. I think that this book is good for preschoolers. It is a way to get them to find the obvious and more subtle letters of the alphabet throughout the book. It has beautiful pictures that are colorful and exciting. I think that is a concept book because of the importance of recognizing letters of the alphabet and seeing that these letters are everywhere so are important to know and recognize. I would use this boo ...more
Mary Cate
Although this concept book only contains painting of the alphabet, I love Johnson's intentions for designing this book and he notes how being observant of the way the letter that make up our language “transcend the mundane and unearth its hidden beauty.” Alphabet City is a wonderful example of a concept book as it has the ability to teach preschool children the letters of the alphabet, as well as how to be aware of how the letters of our alphabet can manifest in the tangible world. Johnson's pai ...more
Melissa Mullins
I loved this book. It was fun to find the different letters in the pictures. It was a unique view on where you can find things throughout our world. I think it would really help children use their imagination. Also, it gives children a new perspective of the world around them!
I enjoyed the concept of this book. I think that getting kids to spot the letter in ordinary objects can make the book a lot more interesting for kids. However, I did find that some of the letters were hard to see, even when you knew what to look for.
First off, I'd like to start by saying how beautiful the artwork is! Stephen Johnson does a wonderful job at at transforming art into realistic images. However, the alphabet component was a bit hard for me to grasp mainly because I think it would be really difficult for a young child to figure out where the letters are due to the complex detailing. While I do think this would work well with kids who are a bit older (say 1st-3rd grade), I wouldn't label this for preschoolers. As a concept book, i ...more
Personally, I thought the book was very interesting. The pictures were painted very realistically and captured the letters at a great angle. However, I do not think this book is a good read for preschoolers. I thought this type of book would be better for a 5-6 year old age group. The letters were not as easy for me to find, so for preschoolers I know it will be a lot harder for them to find. It is a great representation of the genre it is under. I almost thought the pictures were an actual phot ...more
Amanda Harris
I do not think that this book is appropriate for preschoolers as a concept book. Instead, I would categorize this in with Primary grades readers. For preschoolers who are just learning what letter shapes look like this could be very difficult and frustrating for them to find the letters hidden into the pictures. Older children, on the other hand I feel would have more fun trying to search and find the letters. I would use this book in the kindergarten classroom to help children to understand tha ...more
Carly Mcguire
I would highly recommend Alphabet City to a parent or teacher of a preschool-age child. The utilization of real-life examples of letters in every day objects is something I personally believe helps children learn letters better. I think this book is appropriate for the age group it is intended for because its illustrations are concrete in the sense of focusing on a single letter, but also abstract enough to attract attention. The letter Y in lamp posts along a street and the letter J in a park b ...more
Emilie Conard
This book is a great concept book. Not only does it teach the alphabet but it also shows that letters appear everywhere around us in our everyday lives. However, I did not like this book. I did not feel like this book is age appropriate, because it would not keep a preschoolers attention. The pictures are too dull and the letters were hard to distinguish on some of the pages. Since I had a hard time picking out some of the letters in the pictures, I know that children would have an even harder t ...more
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