A is for Alphabet Books…and Oboe

Lynn:A is for oboe I can’t celebrate Picture Book Month without reviewing an Alphabet Book! Long-time readers know it is one of my favorite types of picture books. My love of them began farther back than I’d like to admit and in fact, I still own my battered copy of Hillary Knight’s ABCs purchased for me by my father before I was even born. I’ve loved them ever since and have quite a collection. For me, alphabet books are a testament to the extraordinary creativity that illustrators continue to bring to what could be a mundane genre. They continue to be ever-fresh and brilliantly original.

A Is for Oboe: The Orchestra’s Alphabet (Penguin/Dial, 2021) by Laura Auerbach and Marilyn Nelson proves my point! Like all outstanding books, this is far, far more than an alphabet book. In the talented hands of composer, conductor, and pianist Auerbach and multi-award-winning poet Nelson, this remarkable lyrical book is an introduction to the orchestra, its sections, musical terms, and instruments. It gifts readers with lyrical poems for each letter of the alphabet, each cleverly delivering its assigned letter in unusual ways. For example, A is for the note A played by the oboe to tune the orchestra and W is for the new and exciting music written by today’s young composers. Each poem is a little puzzle to unlock and each begs to be read aloud.

Illustrator Paul Hoppe uses ink on paper with his dynamic and energetic drawings, reinforcing the message that the orchestra of our time is diverse in race, ethnicity, age, and gender and is a living experience for all to enjoy.

The vocabulary is often challenging but in accessible ways and is a valuable addition to music and English language classes as well as being terrific for shared reading with an adult. This is a gem and belongs in all collections. It will certainly be in mine!

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