'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.' - author Jackie French

Monday, 18 November 2013

Tania's Picks: Alphabetical Sydney


Having quite the obsession with alphabet books, and quite the obsession with Sydney ... Oh, and quite the obsession with picture books and with unusual picture books and with stunning illustration and photography ... well. It was absolutely no surprise I tripped and fell headlong into this beautiful book.

Hilary Bell and Antonia Presenti have taken Sydney and assembled into a divinely visual alphabet treat with this gorgeous picture book.

Yes, there are kookaburras and the Harbour Bridge and the ferries, but for the most part, this talented duo have bypassed the stereotypes and instead embraced the true essence of this world class city I once called home. I truly love that about this book. I love that we have Mr Whippy for W and terrace houses for T and nature strip for N.


Starting out with a poem on where this book will take its reader, author Bell has found a way to delight both kids and adults with her no-nonsense prose, which is a joy to read. And all praise to the very clever editor who refused to cull her brilliant word choices and concepts in favour of 'the norm'.

For example, when we tumble into Amusement park (Luna Park right on Sydney's Harbour) the text doesn't greet us with the park's iconic 'happy smile' facade, no no. Instead, we are introduced to its 'lunatic grin'.

Next, we're treated to the Bats that hang in Centennial Park--but no, they're not hanging in the dark night like stereotypical vampires. They're instead strung up like stinky black fruit.


And no, you won't find the Opera House at O--but you will find ocean pool. And it is lovely and very, very Sydney.


The other joy of this book is, of course, the striking illustrations--a divine blend of photography, graphics and illustration that I appreciate so very much. The images are busy but clean, with lots of white space, humour and cleverness, and each and every one evokes true life in the city of Sydney--where one can practically smell the sunscreen, feel the breeze off the harbour and hear the meandering wail of Mr Whippy's ice cream van.


With enormous cross-over appeal, this book would be devoured by kids and so warmly appreciated by adults. It would also make a wonderful gift for tourists/overseas friends and family. And lastly, and very best of all, it would make for a stunning 3D artwork for your desk--something you can pick up, hold, flip though and ooh and ahh endlessly over.

At least, that's what's happening at my house.

Title: Alphabetical Sydney
Author: Hilary Bell
Illustrator: Antonia Pesenti
Publisher: New South, $19.99 RRP
Publication Date: October 2013
Format: 9781742233703
ISBN: 9781742233703
For ages: 3+
Type: Picture Book, Alphabet

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