Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

A Is for Art: An Abstract Alphabet

A Is for Art: An Abstract Alphabet

Stephen T. Johnson
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Simon and Schuster, 2008   ISBN: 978-0689863011

Stephen Johnson has loved looking at and creating art since he was very young. He began by admiring a charcoal portrait that his grandfather drew when he was in art school. As he grew older his area of interest grew away from realistic art to more abstract pieces. He wanted to "move out of what I perceived to be the confines of realism to explore the more open" world of abstract art.

Stephen Johnson feels that abstract art is a form that children intuitively respond to because there are so many possibilities, questions, and answers. For this reason he decided to create a series of alphabet books in which he explores the world of art in a new way. His first book, Alphabet City, was a huge success and it earned him a Newbery Honor.

In this title he does things a little differently. Instead of presenting his audience with unique images of the letters of the alphabet, he presents abstract pieces of art that he describes using a collection of words. For each piece of art the words used in the description almost all begin with the same letter. Thus on the B page the multimedia artwork is described as being "Beside a bisected, blue, bumpy bicycle tire, a bunch of busy burgundy brushstrokes... " and so on.

Readers will not only find themselves looking at the artwork in this book, but they will also have a grand time exploring the text, which is wonderfully rich and cleverly put together. They will see how words can be used create images, and then they can compare what they read with what they see. Young people will also have a grand time looking at the art and discussing how the shapes, colors, and textures work together.