A guest blog from Allan Sanders
When Amanda Wood and Mike Jolley approached me with the idea of The Alphabet of Alphabets I knew immediately it would be a fantastic project. It was clear there would be a huge amount of work involved but I knew working with Mandy and Mike would be a great experience. Together they have made a lot of brilliant books so I jumped at the chance to work with them and Wide Eyed Editions.
The idea for The Alphabet of Alphabets is quite simple – 26 illustrated alphabets from A-Z. A is for Alphabet, B is for Birds, C is for Creepy-crawlies, and so on. Within each alphabet there’s a whole other alphabet of things to find. On D is for Dinosaurs there is an A to Z of dinosaurs from Apatosaurus to Zuniceratops. On E for Earth, you have to find everything from the Atmosphere to the ozone layer.
Making an alphabet for the letter F was great fun. The first thing to do was to agree on a direction. There are a number of themes we could have explored – farm, fairy tales, flags, France, food, or an alphabet based on the future! After some discussion we agreed that F for forest would be the best fit as it offered a wide range of words to learn and lots of fun things to draw.
The next step was to come up with an entire alphabet of forest related things. We decided that A should be Acorn. For the letter B we thought of bushes, a bear, a badger or a big bad wolf! The challenge was to come up with the best forest alphabet we could. So we had a think about the natural world, the kind of woodland creatures you get both in the UK and abroad, and also the idea of fairytale characters like Little Red Riding Hood and folklore figures such as Robin Hood. We settled on a word list that concentrates mostly on the natural world but we tried to fit as many fun characters into the drawing as possible. Throughout the whole book we tried to include little bits of humour. I had this silly idea of including a signpost that reads ‘This way’ and ‘That way’, perhaps the most useless signpost ever!
It is quite a challenge to come up with things for certain letters – Q, Z, X & U are particularly tricky. We were a little bit cheeky sometimes, if we couldn’t think of anything for U we just used underpants. In fact, we even included underpants if we had another U word to find! In Forest the word to find is unicorn, but what is our unicorn wearing? It turns out you can find underpants in all kinds of places – in fact there’s a pair of underpants in each picture in the book.
I hope kids will enjoy finding all of the things in the forest. Some of the things that didn’t make it onto our list of words did of course make it into the pictures. So once kids have found everything on the list they can try and find more things in the picture. Often there is more than one thing beginning with each letter. Once they have exhausted the book (it will take some time!) they could think about the different alphabets around them. You could come up with an alphabet for where you live, or an alphabet of your favourite food, or an alphabet of all the countries in the world. The Federation of Children’s Book Groups could have its very own alphabet. You can have a lot of fun thinking about alphabets!
We certainly had fun coming up with the various different alphabets we included in the book. There is a museum alphabet, an alphabet of inventions, a kitchen alphabet, an alphabet in space and a zoo alphabet. For the letter Q we came up with the quayside alphabet, a whole A-Z of seafaring silliness to find! I really wanted to draw lots of boats, even though I’m not very nautical. Alongside the more traditional boats we managed to squeeze in some unexpected things: a Viking longboat, a U boat and a pirate ship! It was great fun putting everything together and trying to include lots of funny ideas.
The most difficult alphabet to complete was W for things to wear. We came up with the idea of a character wearing 26 alphabetical items of clothing – all at the same time! That doesn’t sound like such a big deal but you should try wearing that many items of clothing whilst retaining any kind of fashion sense. Things can get pretty silly, pretty fast…
The Alphabet of Alphabets is the 10th non-fiction title that I’ve worked on. I feel that I have learnt a lot from all the books that I have illustrated but with 676 words to find this book has made me more knowledgeable than ever. I even know what a zamboni is!
It was a real pleasure to work with Mandy & Mike and the lovely team at Wide Eyed Editions. I hope we can make another book together soon.
The Alphabet of Alphabets, created by Mike Jolley and Amanda Wood and illustrated by Allan Sanders, is published by Wide Eyed Editions. ISBN: 9781786030016 £12.99
Allan Sanders studied at Manchester University and the Royal College of Art. Over the last 15 years Allan has worked on animations for the FIFA World Cup website, illustrations for French road safety agency Sécuritié Routière, Animations and posters for the Oregon Humane Society’s ‘End Petlessness’ campaign, Children’s books including Perfectly Perilous Math, Little Explorers and How Machines Work, and editorial projects for Magazines & Newspapers worldwide including The New Yorker and The Economist. Allan lives in Brighton.
For more information about Wide Eyed Editions visit https://www.quartoknows.com
This is a guest blog from Allan Sanders, and the views expressed do not necessarily represent the FCBG.