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What Makes a Compelling ABC Book?

A Big Caterpillar Sketch

ABC and Early Readers

I am making another ABC book! Yep, its time for a new attack. For those who do not remember the ins-and-outs of my work timeline, my last alphabet book was commissioned two years ago by a family friend. The books had two slight variations adapted to the children's or parents' preferences. Completed in watercolors, these books were very simple 'Q is for Quack' style reads. This is great for a personalized memento and learning letters.

Now, it is time for something new. I am making this book in hopes of self-publishing to sell at craft fairs. The book's theme is backyard (New England) bugs and will be told through simple, creative phrases and spreads with multiple letters per page. Inspired by books like Alligators All Around and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, this book should be fun, bright, and a little playful.

Ella's Alphabet Book

Inspiration and Motivation

Deciding what to make was a difficult first step. Really though, this was challenging. I knew I want to make a small ABC book and for it to be themed tighter than my previous project, but choosing the theme and layout was difficult! I considered house plants, endangered animals, adventures at home, made-up creatures, etc. In the end, I landed on backyard bugs for a couple of reasons.

The first was the timing of summer and spring. New growth and being outside was on my mind, and the mind's of readers and families spending time outside and learning about the world around them. Environmental themes are a large part of my interest base and many of my works are in some way nature related. Bugs made sense.

The second main reason is my interest in promoting themes that sometimes have negative or gendered connotations. Bugs are not bad. Insects shouldn't usually be hurt. Girls do not have to be scared of spiders (though I was and I now work hard at over coming that and setting a calm example to other little girls). Most insects are beneficial and all insects hold a place in our environments.

The Resilient Activist

Photo from the Resilient Activist, click photo to see their site.

Mixing Tones from 'Ella's ABC Book' & 'Sometime' (Aka Mama Bear)

For this project, I wanted to examine how to make a successful ABC book. First, I read a ton of them. Some were just sounds, some included information a plenty, Edward Gorey's works are stories in themselves (dark as they are), and some books didn't work.

I learned I most enjoyed the ones that surprised me in some way. Most children in school have access to ABC books and often baby board books begin with the basic ABC structure. The alphabet books that worked best either had developing characters throughout the book (such as an alligator family doing letter-based actions) or that displayed some combination of story and humor. I hope to combine the basics of the story and information side with the humor, as each new letter will involve a rotating cast.

In order to show my inspirations, I plan to include various tones on each ABC spread. Instead of just having 'c is for caterpillar,' I plan to include a little snippet about each insect. This may be a fun fact, or their scientific name, or a positive trait about traditionally despised creatures. So in combination with the silly, fun and bold illustrations, there will be educational and hopefully encouraging information to spark an early interest in entomology.

That's it for now. Wish me productivity!

purple ladybug in grass watercolor

About Me, Fia Sutton

Hi & welcome to my blog! I am a children's illustrator living in Brooklyn, NY. I create handmade collages, 

watercolors & books that celebrate color, acceptance, & discovery. I am a creator of messy mistakes & happy surprises.

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