Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 19 April 2021
There’s something immensely satisfying about the letters of the alphabet. They offer no limit to literary invention, and to base a book on the twenty-six letters in the English language one can always be sure of one thing – that there is a beginning and an end, and how vital that is with a children’s story, be it read to them or by them!
GRANNY ANNIE’S ULTIMATE ALPHABET BOOK by JO KEMP is a set of very short stories about household objects, food, plants, and the occasional animal, which come to life and have adventures with each other. There’s a doughnut, an egg-timer, a frisbee and a gherkin.
There’s Katie the karate-kicking kettle, Morris the messy mop, Queenie the quivering quilt and Vera the voracious vacuum. But what about ‘X’ and ‘Z’? Why Xavier the Xenophobic Xylophone and Zac the Zealous Zucchini of course!
For children, it’s an image-provoking joy of written or spoken word and sound – of course, a hosepipe is higgledy-piggledy and can be called Harry! And for their – sometimes “long-suffering” – parents, there’s an opportunity to chuckle at the more bizarre and surreal aspects such as Terence the terrible tap, the possible psychological repressions of Yousef the yearning yucca, or the aspirations of the household where Zac the zealous zucchini lives.
The title page reveals that the book was something of a labour of love. The author’s son, illustrator, designer, sound producer and animator, LUKE KEMP so enjoyed the stories of the handful of ‘letter’ characters his mother told him as a small child that he pressed her to complete all twenty-six, so – quite touchingly – here they are!
The large-format paper version which I have here contains competitions and educational details, then there’s the free download online, and the MP3 audiobook. The paper version is really something! For a start, – with the exception of title pages, all print is against a white background so everything’s super legible. The visuals are a combination of flat graphic cartoons with the occasional digitally manipulated photograph. Superb colour and print quality, so you get a real painterly range from flat subtle colour (not too garish) to realistic textured straw in a barn or the glistening glazed surface of a doughnut.
There’s even a small glimpse of a Michelangelo painting! A rich A to Z indeed!