written by Chris Raschka
Photography collection by Vladimir Radunsky
New York Review Children’s Collection 10/01/2014
Age 4 to 7 80 pages
“An ALPHABET book?
“An ALBUM of old photos?
“We named it ALPHABETABUM.
“Here celebrated artist and author Vladimir Radunsky and Chris Raschka put a delightful new old-fashioned spin on the alphabet book. Radunsky has selected portraits off children from is spectacular collection of antique black-and-white photographs. Raschka has given the children names and written deliciously teasing rhymes about them. The result is ALPHABETABUM, a book of letters and pictures to which readers will happily return to again and again both to look and to learn.”
[A picture of a young girl in a short dress with a sash.]
Awkward Agnes Alexandra
Shows her ample ankles
Although her knees are grander.”
Vladimir Radunsky writes, “If these photos were taken in the late-nineteenth or early-twentieth centuries, then the children in them could have been our great-great-great grandparents! So we have an extraordinary chance to see what our great-great-great grandparents looked when they were children.”
There are 26 photographs of children of varying ages in Alphabetabum; the first original book from New York Review Children’s Collection (all others are reprinted classics). I looked closely at the eyes after reading Radunsky’s thoughts that one of these could be a great-great-great-grandparent, aunt, or uncle. I have never seen any pictures of my parents as children, so seeing what they might have worn captivated my attention as well.
Some of the portraits are comical, like young Baby Beulah Bridget who wears a huge white bow upon her tiny head. The bow is too big for her small head and looks to topple at any moment. From the clothing, it is obvious these children are from all over the world. One young boy, named Quiet Quentin Quint, wears long white pants under a black pair of knickers with an ornate jacket and cummerbund. Atop his head is a stocking cap (today, we call these skullcaps) and leans on a cricket bat. Quentin is a serious child.
The photographs in Alphabetabum range from the casual to the formal, though it would not have been a casual friend taking the casual picture. In all cases, the person behind, or next to, the lens would have been a professional photographer. Photographs back then took quite a while to develop and many people had to hold that smile for several minutes. In today’s instant world, I wonder if such portraits are possible.
Alphabetabum is an interesting and quite curious ABC book. It is really more for older kids and adults, not the young child trying to learn their ABC’s, though it could be done. These ABC’s are for those who love poetry, old photographs, and funny verses that try to define the child based on their clothing, they way they pose, and maybe a smile or lack thereof. The names are all alliterated and interesting. I like Alphabetabum because of it’s quirkiness and because I love old photos and photography. I don’t think you need to have those interests to find Alphabetabum worth your time. Alphabetabum will become endearing, leading you to want to share this unusual ABC picture book.
ALPHABETABUM: AN ALBUM OF RARE PHOTOGRAPHS AND MEDIUM VERSES. Text copyright © 2014 by Chris Raschka. Photographs copyright © 2014 by Vladimir Radunsky. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, New York Review Children’s Collection, New York, NY.
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Learn more about Alphabetabum HERE
Also by Chris Raschka
Also by Vladimir Radunsky
Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews