Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Alphabet City” as Want to Read:
Alphabet City
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Alphabet City

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  2,938 Ratings  ·  361 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 ol ...more
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published 1995 by Viking
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Alphabet City, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Alphabet City

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Dec 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
As someone who (although generally and mostly rather more textual than visual) often does tend to visualise, to locate, multiple different images within given works of art, I massively enjoy Stephen T. Johnson's Alphabet City (and while a select few of the depicted urban alphabet images could be, perhaps, a bit difficult to easily discern, most are actually more than readily identifiable as specific letter shapes). That being said, I would not necessarily consider Alphabet City as a suitable too ...more
May 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: childrens, reviewed
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
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
With paintings created with pastels, watercolors, gouache, and charcoal on hot pressed watercolor paper, the letters of the alphabet are depicted in everyday urban scenes.

The images are so realistic that they often appear to be photographs, and I was very impressed with the author's ability to see art and language in the city's infrastructure.

This book was selected as one of the books for the November 2016- Caldecott Honor discussion at the Picture-Book Club in the Children's Books Group here
Caldecot Honor picture book. Simple but awesome alphabet book idea. Basically letters found on the street, but paintings not photographs. The letters are clear and obvious but still imaginative and the art itself is well executed. It makes you look and think.
Apr 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
I have seen this book before but I don't think I have ever read it. I was really impressed. Johnson found the alphabet in a variety of locations around a city and then painted realistic pictures of each letter. I can imagine reading this with a young child and then embarking on our own search for alphabet letters as we are out and about. Even without young children, I suspect I will be more aware of letters I pass as I walk and drive around my city. What especially amazed me is that most of the ...more
Emily Birecki
Oct 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: caldecott
1996 Caldecott Honor - Favorite Illustration: The B fire escape! It is so creative and took me a minute to see it!
I love this collection of illustrations that show the details commonly found in a city. I appreciated the author's note that he had rules for himself when it came to finding letters, and I really enjoyed looking for his inspiration in each painting. Beautiful alphabet and concept book.
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.
Sep 20, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: childrens
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.
Oct 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: assignment
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.
Melissa Mullins
Oct 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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!
Annette Taylor-james
Jul 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: abc-books
This book is wordless, however the pictures give creative minds a chance to be just that more creative. Place it in your Art area.
Mar 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picturebooks
If the verso of the title page did not state that these illustrations were pastel, watercolor, gouache and charcoal paintings, I would have sworn they were photographs. Very creative and unique.
Randie D. Camp, M.S.
Sep 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Johnson challenges readers to find all 26 letters hidden in objects found in the city.
Morgan Hatcher
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Alphabet City by Stephen T. Johnson is an incredible book for both young kids and older students alike. This book allows children to experience reading without even seeing a single word on the page. Alphabet City shows students unique forms of different letters throughout the alphabet in a city setting. Illustrations like a sawhorse set up to make the letter A, or a patch of grass arranged in the letter D allows students to view letters in a whole new way. The illustrator uses the artistic mediu ...more
Elizabeth Shanks
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book does a phenomenal job of teaching children letters without directly illustrating the letter's shape. While looking at the pictures, I was amazed at the creativity in finding ways to incorporate letters throughout a city. The illustrations of the letters are painted so realistically, they look like true photographs. Stephen Johnson uses paints that mimic the exact situation he is trying to illustrate, such as a traffic light for the letter E or a railing for the letter P. It is importan ...more
Mama Bibliosoph
Photo-realistic oil paintings of urban scenes invite kids to find the shapes of letters in the world around them. My son Harry often points out the "U" in the curve of a playground swing, so I knew he'd like this concept. Both my sons enjoyed Alphabet City, but their interest waned when a letter was particularly hard to find—and a few of the images are tricky.

This book wouldn't work as well for a kids from the suburbs or a small town or rural community. But we live in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen,
Bailey Gulley
Title: Alphabet City
Author: Stephen T. Johnson
Genre: ABC book
Theme(s): Alphabet, city
Opening line/sentence: no words
Brief Book Summary:
The author goes through the alphabet with no words or letters written in the book. He uses different objects seen throughout the city to show the letter of the alphabet.

Professional Recommendation/Review 1:
CCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices, 1995) CCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices, 1995 )
Paintings that echo with the realism of
Maria Rowe
• 1996 Caldecott Honor Book •

I like the concept of this book - using shapes found in the cityscape to form the alphabet. It's a neat idea, but when I first flipped through the book, I had no idea what letter was being presented. I'd say about half of the letters are not obvious - they only become (somewhat) visible when you go through the book in order. I think this might be difficult for children just learning the alphabet to even recognize the letters. Typed letters over the paintings would ha
Zoe Supina
The author takes a walk around the city while noticing letters in everyday things such as doors, traffic lights, and fire escapes. There are no words, just strikingly-realistic paintings of things he sees. Each painting takes a unique perspective on something that you may see everyday, encouraging readers to walk through like with fresh-eyes and notice things they may never have before.

This book would be great for a classroom library, grades pre-k through 3rd. This book can be paired with an ass
Lauren McEnerney
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Strictly a picture book, Johnson has created this early concept book for learning the alphabet. In the city, where Johnson bases his illustrations from, the alphabet is seen in real city structures that captivates the reader and encourages them to look for alphabet examples in their own city or town. The pictures illustrated are created by pastes, gouache, charcoal, and watercolor to create surreal images throughout the book.
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: is330-books
Alphabet City is a fascinating picture book. The photographs uses to make the book are well shot and visually dynamic. Without the use of any words, it can help even the youngest child start to understand patterns in the natural and man made world while also starting an education of letters. It really reveals the fundamentals of structure, shape, and pattern that children are sure to come across in their lives. I would recommend using it with all ages of children.
Gabriella Bumbaca
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childrens-lit
Genre: Non-Fiction
Grade Range: K-2
My favorite part about this book is that it shows students that learning can go beyond the classroom. There is no doubt that after reading this book, children will be looking for letters in their everywhere! It inspires learning to be fun and exciting.
Kali Hilliard
Oct 13, 2017 rated it liked it
K-1; contemporary realistic; This picture book is phenomenal when it comes to revealing children to letters. The book beautifully illustrates letters displayed in the real world, making learning the alphabet more engaging for the kiddos!
Laura G
Fantastic photographs of "ordinary" things on the street that look like each letter of the alphabet. Will be fun to share with toddlers and preschoolers, and I can only imagine how they will be finding letters all around as a result of this book!
Nancy Kotkin
Concept: 5 stars
Art: 5 stars

In this alphabet book, all the letters are featured in natural habitats. The letters of the alphabet are not printed anywhere on the pages, so the readers have to find the letters in the art. What a clever concept for an alphabet book! It captures attention, promotes visual literacy, and sparks creativity. All the letters are clearly represented without tilting the book in strange ways. Art is highly impressive. Many of the illustrations are urban landscapes, hence th
Brandy T
Mar 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Love this book for inspiration. Different objects used to create the alphabet.
Mar 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: alphabet-books
1. N/a
3. This book is truly unique. There is no story, only the letters of the alphabet. Only, they aren't ordinary letters, they're made out of things you find all over a city!
4. This book is average overall. The illustrations are fun and a novel way to show off the alphabet. However, there is no cohesive story, only a theme.
5. Demonstrating the letters of the alphabet and working on phonics as they look for the letters shape.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Graphic Alphabet
  • On Market Street
  • Alphabatics
  • Jambo Means Hello: Swahili Alphabet Book
  • Gone Wild: An Endangered Animal Alphabet
  • Ape in a Cape: An Alphabet of Odd Animals
  • Peppe the Lamplighter
  • Time Flies
  • Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-Air Balloon Ride
  • Goggles!
  • A Child's Calendar
  • Ella Sarah Gets Dressed
  • Noah's Ark
  • Color Zoo
  • The Red Book
  • Ben's Trumpet
  • Harlem
  • The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »