11 Quirky Alphabet Books
With a Twist
by Iva-Marie Palmer
Picture books devoted to the ABCs should be a staple in any toddler or preschooler library; but just because the alphabet is a must-learn milestone doesn’t mean kids shouldn’t have fun with it. To build on more standard alphabet primers, try out one of these quirkier A-to-Z books and put a little whimsy into your child’s abecedarian efforts.
Once Upon an Alphabet
No letter is left behind in Jeffers’ slightly odd and absurdly irresistible entry into the alphabet book field. Inside the 112-page book is a short story for each letter of the alphabet, complete with Jeffers’ signature drawings. And, while the entries can be read separately, older children might want to read the book cover to cover to notice all the clever interlinking Jeffers does between the stories.
Mr. Boddington's Studio: NYC ABCs
You don’t have to ever have visited New York City to be familiar with some of its most famous sights or to be captivated by its many surprises. This board book — filled with art from Mr. Boddington’s Studio, a purveyor of whimsically designed stationary and prints – not only leads tots through the alphabet, but takes them on a mini-tour of one of the world’s greatest cities.
The Eyeball Alphabet Book
Look through this book and see if you can guess the animals by their eyeballs. Kids and parents will love reading this quirky, funny, and educational alphabet book jam-packed with facts about the animal kingdom.
The late, beloved author of the Llama Llama series, Anna Dewdney, knows a thing (or 26) about making the alphabet feel fresh and funny to a young reader. Playful combinations lead to all-new animals, like the Flatapus and the Elephantom. The clever wordplay, along with Reed Duncan’s playful illustrations, makes this entry in the ABC canon one capable of amusing even kids who know their alphabet quite well.
This 1996 Caldecott Honor book has no words, but contains every letter in the form of Johnson’s brilliant and intricate pastel and watercolor artwork. The letter “E” appears in a traffic light viewed from the side, while zigzagging fire escapes form the letter “B.” In addition to teaching the alphabet, this book will inspire kids to look for amazing sights in the most quotidian surroundings.
The Invisible Alphabet
You can’t see the items in this alphabet book. They’re gone, invisible, see-through, or non-existent. It’s an unusual concept that encourages readers to fill in the rest of the story with their imaginations. If you like quirky ABC books, you’ll love this one!
With her ink-and-watercolor illustrations, author Kim Krans gives young readers a reason to pause on each page of this alphabetic adventure. Each of the ABCs is surrounded by (or comprised of) objects that start with that letter, giving kids a chance to linger on it as they name every item. The back of the book contains a guide to what alliterative objects can be found throughout. It’s as dreamy as the title suggests.
The ABCs of What I Can Be
Astronaut, beekeeper, carpenter — oh my! This imaginative picture book follows an inclusive group of kids play-acts a hundred different professions spanning from artist to Zumba instructor. Silly situations and hidden details depicted in the bright illustrations will have readers coming back to this delightful book again and again.
C Is for Country
Join Lil Nas X and his pony Panini as they ride through the countryside, pointing out things that start with letters of the alphabet. From farm animals to clothing, this is an educational adventure you won’t forget.
Owls are Good at Keeping Secrets
With this book, author Sara O’Leary not only wants kids to learn their letters, but she wants to fill them in on some of the oddball “facts” of the animal kingdom, too. Each letter features an animal and a fresh revelation about the critter, too. For example, elephants love bath time, and dragons cry at happy endings. Kids will have a case of the giggles before you can get to the letter “G.”
Roald Dahl ABC
Roald Dahl is the king of quirky, and this adorable alphabet book celebrates his unusual stories while teaching the alphabet to young readers. Inside, you’ll find Quentin Blake’s beloved illustrations from your favorite stories paired with letters of the alphabet. It’s a must-have for any Dahl fan’s home library.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2019 and updated in 2022.