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Alphabet City

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  3,017 Ratings  ·  398 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
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published November 1st 1999 by Turtleback Books (first published October 1st 1995)
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Dec 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  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
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Johnson challenges readers to find all 26 letters hidden in objects found in the city.
Bailee Coots
Dec 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: exam-2
From the title of the book alone, I knew it was going to be about the alphabet. What I did not expect was the fact that there no actual words used in the book. It took me a minute at first to understand it, the fact that the alphabet was shown through everyday city objects. I personally felt that some of the objects representing the letters in the alphabet were hard to find. For example, the letter Q is represented by a train tire on a track, but I can not outline the “Q” in the picture. Others ...more
Emilee Stephens
I think this book is interesting for the age group it is intended for. The defined borders make it a little too structured for a children’s book than I enjoy, but for the children, I think it is an excellent learning book. This book is strictly a picture book not containing any words throughout leaving room for the children to question and learn during the read.

This book is appropriate for children learning the alphabet and learning how to recognize different objects in the real world and relate
Hayley Fisher
Dec 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: exam-2
Stephen T. Johnson does an amazing job of creating a book that is intriguing to readers of all ages. Johnson won the Caldecott Honor Award in 1996 for this incredible, wordless book that tells a story all the same as one with words. I loved this book so much because it sparks the imagination, even in adults. This book is definitely appropriate for the age group it is intended for - younger readers - because there is not much reading. It is actually a great teaching tool because it can even invol ...more
Emily Hatch
This novel caught my eye and took me by surprise. I was shocked that this is intended for the age of preschool children. I struggled with finding some of the letters; however, it is an alphabetical sequence which makes it a little bit easier. The front cover shows an A made out of wooden panels, and the back cover shows a Z made out of balcony stairwells. The story holds all 26 letters, too. After looking through the pages multiple times, I grew to like this sophisticated book more than my initi ...more
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought Alphabet City was a unique picture book that contained realistic illustrations of the alphabet that children could look for in a real world context. I enjoyed the story and I think that if I were reading this to a group of children it would leave plenty of room for add-in instruction; for example you could trace the letters with your finger as you read to show letter formations. This book does not list a specific age but instead says great for all ages. I think that the simplicity of t ...more
Morgan Hatcher
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alphabet City by Stephen T. Johnson is an incredible book for both young kids and older students alike. This is a Caldecott honor book that allows students to not only explore a big city, but learn the letters of the alphabet while at it. 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, o ...more
Taylor Bishop
When I first opened this book it really surprised me because I was not expecting it to be wordless. I do feel as if this book is appropriate for a very young audience still learning their alphabet because it allows the readers to find the letter in every picture. Therefore, they are able to better learn letters of the alphabet is an entertaining way. After my initial reaction to opening the wordless book, the pictures immediately caught my attention. While the artwork looks almost like real phot ...more
Hailey Lavender
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
_Alphabet City_ serves as a great book to support preschooler's letter recognition. It can sometimes be difficult to pick out the letters from the picture, but the challenge would be appropriate enough for preschool aged children and can assess how well they can recognize their letters. It also helps children learn the order of the alphabet, since the letters are illustrated and placed in the book in the common order. The illustrations are made up of calming colors, making it pleasing to look at ...more
Susanna Lowy
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book had beautiful illustrations and made me look around at my surroundings to find letters in other everyday things. I gave this book five stars because the illustrations were very well done and it was very creative and easy to read through. It is a perfect book for the preschool level because they can look at the illustrations and find the letter themselves. This would be a good way to start introducing children to reading, just by getting familiar with their letters.

The covers of this b
Breanna Brooks
Dec 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: exam-2
Alphabet City is an extremely uniquely illustrated book that is meant to teach children the alphabet. Even though it is meant for preschool aged kids, I think that children up to the first or second grade could enjoy the book because of the illustrations. This book is so interesting and eye catching for children because its images of the letters of the alphabet are everyday objects, buildings, and images that children might see walking down the street in their own everyday life. This book remind ...more
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alphabet City was the 1996 Caldecott Honor Book and won the American Library Association Notable Children’s Book Award, New York Times Best Illustrated Book, Horn Book Magazine Fanfare Award, and the Parenting Magazine Reading Magic Award. I really liked the book because it had a variety of pictures that depicted alphabet letters in real life. This book can be read by all ages because it is wordless! I really like how the pictures are so different and it provides a fun way to look at the alphabe ...more
Magdalena Gallegos
This book had wonderful illustrations. They were complex, but it was still easy to understand what the author and illustrator were trying to show. This book is appropriate for the preschool age group due to its simplicity and lack sentences and words. The illustrations are important to this book because they contribute to the child's learning. Without the illustrations, the book would not be used as a way to teach about the alphabet. Each letter shape is clearly drawn in the city scenes. I perso ...more
Kat Boles
Dec 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: is-330-exam-2

This book is a unique twist on the typical alphabet book! Preschoolers, but even children of all ages, will enjoy decoding each picture to find letters of the alphabet in this wordless picture book. This book is both informational and absolutely fun for children as well. On each page, Johnson presents a letter hidden in his realistic watercolor and pastel drawings. At first glance, one could even mistake his artwork of the city as photographs, with typical apartment buildings and cathedral wind
Sarah Neely
Oct 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alphabet City by Stephen T. Johnson is a picture book in the most literal sense of the phrase. The very first page, a letter from the author explaining his motivation for this book, has the only words in the entire book. Johnson was inspired by the letters of the alphabet that he noticed within ordinary parts of the city. Where the ordinary eye might see a traffic light, Johnson saw a capital letter ‘E.’ He made it his mission to find every capital letter in pieces of a normal city in their natu ...more
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