Book Review: The Hidden Alphabet

The Hidden Alphabet, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Published by Roaring Brook Press; Reissue edition (November 23, 2010)
Recommended for ages 4 - 8

This is Anne's favorite book. Anne is one year old.

Anne reading the "H" page of "The Hidden Alphabet"

This is also one of my favorite of Anne's books.

That's my way of saying that, yes, this is kind of a children's book, but it's not just a children's book. It's a fascinating little "read" for all ages. It's a lift-the-flap book, yes, but it's not your typical lift-the-flap book.

Laura Vaccaro Seeger, author (and illustrator) of Anne's other favorite book, First The Egg, plays with the idea of negative space in this book of letters and pictures. Each page is covered with a black flap that contains a cut-out square or rectangle. Inside the cut-out is what looks like an object that begins with the letter for the page. For example, there's a picture of a fish inside the cut-out for the "F" page.

Then you lift the flap. In a seeming trick of the eye, the object in the cut-out becomes the negative space for the actual letter.

Does that make sense? It's an optical illusion in action!

The "fish" turns into the space between the two horizontal lines of the letter "F."

For "Q," a quotation mark turns into the inside of the letter "Q."

With most of her books, Anne turns the pages quickly, more interested in her newfound ability to turn pages than she is in the book's actual content (er, the pictures). Even if I'm reading to her, she wants to push on.

And if it's a book I've already read to her a hundred times? She makes it clear, halfway through, that she's bored with it, and let's move to the next book now, please Mummy.

But The Hidden Alphabet? This book is 32 pages long--much longer than her "touch and feel" board books--but she never gets bored with it, and we've read it at least a hundred times. And she never asks me, halfway through, to read something else. She doesn't rush through the pages of this one.

She touches the drawing in the cut-out, lifts the flap, looks at the picture, puts the flap down, and gently turns the page.

Oh, and she likes to stick her arm through the cut-outs, too. But hey, she's one. One-year-olds do that kind of thing. Fortunately, the pages are pretty thick and durable.

On, I read that The Hidden Alphabet is recommended for ages 4 - 8. Obviously, in our family at least, it appeals to a much wider age range than that. (Though I must admit, Anne did rip the "G" flap the other day, so I can see why it isn't recommended for children under four. If you do buy this for your young child, you might want to always read it with him or her, rather than letting the child look at it alone.)

Here's a trailer for the book. It's kind of a spoiler because it pretty much shows you the entire book. But at least you'll be able to see what I haven't been able to describe very well here. Enjoy!

(If you watch the trailer, let me know which letters are your favorite! My favorites are F/Fish, M/Mouse, and P/Partridge!)


Sherry said…
L for leaf. I have gotten way behind in my picture book appreciation since my youngest starting growing up on me. She's nine and almost past picturebooks, although I can see her and all of us enjoying this one as an art book.
The Dahmens said…
Sounds like a great book! I have added to it my Amazon wish list! Thanks for letting us know about it.
Linda said…
What a GORGEOUS book! (I loved M for mouse, too!)
Nina said…
Sherry: The teacher in me can't help but think that the book could be used as part of an art project for slightly older kids. Kids could make their own "lift the flap" project using the first letter of the own name--or doing their whole name, even. (Heck, I think that would even be a fun project for grown-ups!)

Nicole: You're welcome! Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Linda: I thought you would particularly appreciate this one!
The dB family said…
What a neat book!! I like the leaf and the zipper. I'm going to have to add it to my book order that will go in later this week. Thank you for sharing it!


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