Leslie McGuirk: If Rocks Could Sing – a discovered alphabet

Rock styling and props by the author

Photographs by Denise Ritchie

Published by Tricycle Press, Random House, 2011

“This is a book born from the sea. Some people walk the beach searching for shells, all the while passing by the little rocks that make up this book. This collection began more than 10 years ago, as I discovered rocks on the Florida seashore that looked like letters. It became a real passion of mine to complete the entire alphabet…Finding these letters, and rocks that looked like objects to match them, was a process of believing that anything is possible.”

I love the idea that life has serendipitous moments. Sometimes we are in the right place at just the right time, and what was a dream becomes a reality.

For Leslie McGuirk, it has been her dream to create an alphabet using only the sandstone rocks that she could find by fossicking on the Florida seashore. It’s astonishing that she did! All the letters of the alphabet have been discovered, the end papers revealing the complete set.

We begin with A for addition and move on to B for bird and C for couch potato. Cleverly selected rocks resemble the objects that begin with that letter. There is a ‘rock’ bird in a nest, ‘rock’ numbers for addition and a ‘rock’ couch potato resting on a pink satin chaise lounge.

In some ways, it is just another alphabet book. But in other ways, it is the result of so much looking, patience and hope, and a tribute to one person’s perseverance, perspective, and belief that the project could be completed.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 2-4 years and below are more suggestions for picture books which explore the twenty-six letters of our amazing alphabet:

Eating the Alphabet: Fruit & Vegetables from A to Z
by Lois Ehlert

A is for Angry: an animal and adjective alphabet
by Sandra Boynton

Eric Carle’s ABC by Eric Carle

The Wiggles: Emma’s Ballet Alphabet by The Wiggles

Letters from Australia
by Maree Coote

F is for Fox by DK Publishing Illustrated by Marc Pattenden

Flora Forager ABC
by Bridget Beth Collins

A-Z of Australian Animals
by Jennifer Cossins

A is for Atom: a Midcentury Alphabet by Greg Paprocki

A to Z Story of Australian Animals by Sally Morgan
Illustrated by Bronwyn Bancroft

Alpha by Isabelle Arsenault

Black and White Rabbit’s ABC
by Alan Baker

An Alphabet of Stories
by Oliver Jeffers

Lucy & Tom’s ABC
by Shirley Hughes

Once Upon an ABC
by Sophie Masson
Illustrated by Chris Nielsen

A by Paul Thurlby

ABC Alphabet by Chihiro Takeuchi

Alison Lester’s ABC by Alison Lester

M is for Mutiny: History by Alphabet by John Dickson Illustrated by Bern Emmericks

Mog’s ABC by Judith Kerr

Kes Gray: Oi Aardvark!

Illustrated by Jim Field

I love Kes Gray’s picture books. I always read them with a smile, a giggle and no small amount of wonder. How does he come up with all those words that rhyme?

What does rhyme with aardvark? Hmmm, think about it…

Cardshark! And there is the shark, a smiling mouth full of teeth and nifty fins holding playing cards. Riding on top, the aardvark is there too, diving gear on and cards in hand.

In this picture book, Frog has a “New Alphabetty Botty Book” to fill with creatures from A to Z. Frog’s task is to get them to sit somewhere that rhymes with their name. Cat and Dog have done this before, and they are not sure it can be done again. Frog is optimistic he can do it.

For young children, the illustrations are funny and ridiculous. Have you ever seen a donkey sit on a long key? For young readers, the rhyming text helps to ease their way in pronouncing unfamiliar words, like jays sitting on maize and mosquitos sitting on burritos.

There are a few books in this series, some are written with Claire Gray, and all of them in partnership with illustrator Jim Field.

I can highly recommend them for children 2-6 years. I guarantee you will close the book with a smile. Below are more books in this series:

Oi Cat!

Oi Dog!

Oi Duck-Billed Platypus!

Oi Puupies!

Oi Frog!

Frog on a Log?

Dog on a Frog?

Mike Dumbleton: Anisa’s Alphabet

Illustrated by Hannah Sommerville

Published by Midnight Sun Publishing Pty Ltd, 2020

With few words, many pictures and the alphabet, Mike Dumbleton has taken us on the journey of young Anisa Alidurahn, a refugee fleeing from her homeland with her family. Each letter frames the next step, the next hope and the next feeling as we travel with Anisa, helping us to understand what it might be like to leave all that we love behind. From happy home, to a tent city, to a boat that is overcrowded and sinking, to detention, we journey with Anisa and enter her uncertain world.

The language is simple, evocative and hopeful despite the helplessness of the many challenges that face Anisa and her family. As such, it is an excellent resource to introduce this sensitive and sometimes disturbing topic to younger readers.

If you like this book, look out for these titles by the same author:

See the source image
Meet…Douglas Mawson
Illustrated by Snip Green
See the source image
Passing On
Illustrated by
Terry Denton
See the source image
Illustrated by Tom Jellett

If you would like to read more picture books about refugees, here are some of my favorite titles:

What is a Refugee? by Elise Gravel

See the source image
Whoever You Are by
Mem Fox
Illustrated by Leslie Staub

See the source image
My Two Blankets by
Irena Kobald
Illustrated by
Freya Blackwood

The Little Refugee
by Anh Do and Suzanne Do Illustrated by Bruce Whatley

Just Like You by Jo Loring-Fisher