Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 04 Oct 2015

Alphabet by Kveta Pacovska

 I have a big collection of alphabet books and this is one that is probably aimed at adults rather than children, although I think that is would fascinate readers of all ages. Possibly influenced by Fauvism and certainly Chagall, it is a triumph of book design. It is beautifully presented in a slipcase, which in itself is a work of art with tantalising cut-outs and hints at what is inside the book.

Once inside, we begin a journey that is a pleasurable assault on the senses as each letter is carefully cut and textured in a different way so that we travel through the book over a range of shiny, dappled, multi layered surfaces. The colours are vivid throughout and every page is a new surprise.


At the front of the book the author states that 'The heroes of this book are the letters of the alphabet'. What an understatement! Let me introduce you to a few of the more dazzling characters: A is first introduced as a clown like face, full lipped with a pointed red hat. Turn the page and the face transforms to a pop up format with more subtle colouring, quieter staring eyes and a hint at a man's moustachioed features. The sides of  the letter suggest a brightly coloured cloak or perhaps a poncho? Across the top of the page the letter A is bannered in red is different thicknesses of font suggesting that the character is experimenting with how he/ she wants to be represented.

We then come to B who fills the double page as a bold red, hippopotamus type creature appearing to eat a man. Turn the page and the rich flamboyance leaps out as another highly coloured, predominantly red personality. Two faces appear on either side of the central character: a cat woman, with red lips and cheeks and the jolly smiling face of the man who appeared to be being consumed on the previous page.

Let us move on to R, who like some of the previous intervening characters, is partly silvered with two different textures but then kicks out a red booted leg to indicate another forceful personality. The letter T is also red booted but has a red lipped head wearing a bowler hat. He/ she spreads out his arms, crucifixion style and appears to be wearing a brightly coloured caftan.


The letter Y seems to be rather more enigmatic and complicated. Initially presented as a simple white on white character cut into four sections. On opening these we discover another silvered version with the continued coloured palette also appearing on the underside of the opened flaps. On the end pages we meet Z who, like some of the other letters, has his jagged coloured shape clearly defined by raising the page. The middle page holds another suggestion of his complexity with a very busy, overlaid and repetitive version of the letter. Finally, a page folds out presenting us with a red lipped, smiling elephant type creature. I'm not quite sure if this is a reassuring glimpse of the author/ illustrator but it is a friendly character to end with.


 I hope that I have enticed you to find this book as it is quite difficult to do it justice this using mere words. It is an example of how so many books need to be enjoyed and lovingly stroked page after page as a sensual physical experience.

Karen Argent

October 2015