cover image Alphabet School

Alphabet School

Stephen T. Johnson. S&S/Wiseman, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4169-2521-7

Johnson follows A Is for Art and his Caldecott Honor–winning Alphabet City with a series of letters found in a traditional brick school. Instead of the meticulous photorealistic images of Alphabet City, Johnson offers monoprints—grainy, meditative, and subtly colored, like sun-bleached photographs. There’s a sense of calm as the page turns and the next letter reveals itself. Every one, no matter how complex, appears quite naturally, without any contrivance, in settings most readers will recognize. Some letters are found in architectural details, as when the edges of a window frame are captured from an angle that makes them appear to be an E. The L is a pencil sharpener handle, the F is a flagpole with two flags on it, and the R is a twisted rope in a gym, its proportions classically correct. The images are oddly free of people—it’s like a school after hours or over summer vacation, when no one is there and one is free to explore. The lack of artificiality conveys the feeling that forms like these are all around us, waiting to be noticed. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)