London's magical landmarks and layered cityscapes are in safe hands with illustrator Ben Hawkes. London ABC uses familiar scenes to teach the alphabet and even includes a slightly mischievous penguin as a tour guide. There is no narrative text and instead the penguin provides the link as he pops up on each page. Sometimes he's central to the scene like when he's wearing an I Love London t-shirt while eating an ice cream cone. And in other pictures he's part of the background like when he's riding the London Eye and is a tiny figure inside one of the many capsules. One of my favorite scenes is the Jubilee party he crashes. He's sitting very still next to a granny and waving his Union Jack as if he owned the place. Each picture is loaded with detail and E and I've been talking about the buses, boats, fire engine, horses, trains, underground signage and of course the zoo where the penguin finally returns after his adventures in the Big Smoke.
The illustrations are impressive in their own right but look closely and you'll see just how clever they really are in terms of the ABC's. One letter is featured across each spread along with a text phrase such as 'O is for Oxford Circus'. However, in the background you'll also spot other objects beginning with the same letter. The Oxford Circus page includes an Octopus, Onion and an Ostrich. There's a handy list of illustrations in the back just in case you miss something along the way. I especially like the 'Pear' store on the 'P' page and anyone familiar with an Apple (Mac) store will quickly recognize the reference.
For my two year old this compact title (it's approx 13 x 10 cm) is more about looking at pictures and name recognition than learning the alphabet. However, I feel there's room to grow and even more of a story to be told as he gets older and the letters take on more meaning. It's also a great way to commemorate the big summer of London 2012 and I hope it will become a keepsake. And it's not just for Londoners -- I think it will appeal to any kid charmed by lovely pictures and a slightly naughty penguin. You can have a closer look via the Random House website: RandomHouse.